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Donald Trump Win Casts Doubt on AT&T-Time Warner Approval, Media Mergers

Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential race has raised new questions about whether AT&T’s pending $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner will secure approval from federal regulators.

The wave of populism that put Trump over the top on Election Day has cast a shadow on the potential for other big deals involving media and entertainment assets. Trump’s campaign, particularly in its final months, was unabashedly hostile to the mainstream media establishment. The fact that Republicans retained control of the House and Senate could also complicate AT&T’s effort to navigate the deal through an unpredictable political landscape amid the Trump transition.

Time Warner shares were down a little more than 1% in early trading Wednesday while AT&T shares were up just under 1% — a sign that the market thinks the prospect of the deal falling apart would be harder on Time Warner than AT&T.

On the campaign trail last month, Trump was quick to vow that he would block the AT&T-Time Warner union, calling it “an example of the power structure I’m fighting” that would amount to “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” He also singled out Comcast as a media conglomerate with too much power that it exerts in an effort to “try to tell the voters what to think and what to do.”

On Wednesday, hours after Trump clinched his electoral college win, AT&T chief financial officer Jeff Stephens sought to put the best possible spin on the Trump surprise while speaking at an investor conference.

“We’re all captivated by the activity last night. From a company perspective, we really look forward to working with president-elect Trump and his transition team,” Stephens said during his appearance at the Wells Fargo Technology, Media and Telecom conference in New York. “His policies, his discussions about infrastructure investment, economic development, and American innovation all fit right in with AT&Ts goals. We’ve been the leading investor in this country for more than five years running. And our Time Warner transaction is all about innovation, economic development, consumer choice, and investment in infrastructure with regard to providing a great 5G mobile broadband experience. So we look forward, with optimism, to working with the leadership and providing benefits to consumers and to our shareholders.”

The AT&T-Time Warner acquisition agreement includes a $500 million breakup fee if AT&T is not able to secure regulatory approval of the transaction.

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