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DoJ to appeal court approval of AT&T's Time Warner deal

Hannah Boland
A&T's general counsel David McAtee said the company was 'surprised' that the DoJ had chosen to appeal  -  MIKE BLAKE

The US Department of Justice has sought to overturn a court decision which allowed A&T to acquire Time Warner, filing an appeal which, if successful, could reverse the $85bn merger, which completed last month.

The DoJ had been given 60 days to decide whether it wanted to appeal Judge Richard Leon's ruling, from June 13, and lodged the appeal on Thursday evening.

A&T's general counsel David McAtee said the company was "surprised" that the DoJ had chosen to appeal, saying: "The court's decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based and well-reasoned.

"We are ready to defend the court's decision at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals."

A new trial is likely to see the US government renew its arguments against the deal, specifically that such a tie-up limits choices for consumers, a claim which surprised many given AT&T and Time Warner are not direct competitors, one being a telecommunications company and the other an entertainment business. 

In the landmark ruling last month, the federal judge had rejected the government's claims, and said parts of its case were "plagued by inconsistencies".

He had said: "Ultimately I conclude that the government has failed to meet its burden to establish that the proposed transaction is likely to lessen competition substantially."

Comcast / Fox / Sky / Disney timeline

The decision to give the deal the green light was seen as a major blow to the DoJ antitrust head Makan Delrahim, who had spearheaded efforts to block the takeover.

However, many in the media industry had welcomed the ruling, seeing it as a sign that the industry would not be prevented in pursuing mergers and acquisitions, in order to adapt and compete with the growing dominance of technology companies. 

Just hours after AT&T emerged victorious in the case, Comcast made its formal offer for 21st Century Fox's global entertainment assets, throwing down the gauntlet to Disney who had already lodged a bid.

Comcast's offer was later topped by Disney.