AT&T & Time Warner Merger Decision To Be Made Official Tomorrow

Setting aside the possibility of appeals which might be made in the case, AT&T will finally discover tomorrow whether or not its Time Warner Merger can move forward. There are effectively three options available to the presiding United States District Judge of D.C. Richard Leon and, despite speculation on the matter, things could really swing in any direction at this point. For those who may not be aware, the case was initially brought by the Justice Department, which views the merger between the two companies as anti-competitive. That stems from the fact that AT&T would own a pay-TV service that is not at all exclusive to its mobile platform - with concerns that it might abuse that ownership to deny or nickel-and-dime competitors or customers. Specifically, that might result in users switching to AT&T's service just to gain access to the content.

Arguably the most likely outcome at this point, however, is that the judge will allow the merger to move forward under conditions set to balance things out. That would probably include rules intended to prevent any anti-competitive behavior from the service provider. AT&T has consistently refuted that claim with statements indicating that it intends to spread the content as widely as possible in a bid to ensure a large return on its investment. The deal is, after all, set to cost the carrier $85.4 billion. That any decision other than one carrying mandates for AT&T will almost certainly result in a long appeals process is what makes that outcome most likely at this point. Bearing that in mind, there is also a possibility that the judge will simply allow the merger to move forward without stipulation. The Justice Department is free, at that point, to put forward an appeal which could roadblock the deal from moving forward. To the contrary, the court could also rule the deal anti-competitive and simply deny the companies approval to merge. Obviously, AT&T may or may not appeal that decision if it comes down to it.

Since the court is set to rule on the merger tomorrow, it won't take too long to discover whether or not either party has made their case effectively. Having said that, and given how cases such as this have a tendency to go, it's probably a good idea not to jump to the conclusion that this will bring the case to a close. There's a very good chance that either the Justice Department or AT&T will not be satisfied, whatever Judge Leon decides and this case will have long-term ramifications in the tech industry. So this could be going on for quite some time still.

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