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AT&T, Time Warner Extend Merger Agreement to April 2018 Because of DOJ Lawsuit

AT&T and Time Warner, facing a lawsuit by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice to block the telco’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, have extended their merger agreement until April 22, 2018.

AT&T disclosed the extension of the merger-termination date in an 8-K filing Tuesday with the SEC. On Nov. 20, the DOJ surprised many in the industry with its lawsuit to halt AT&T’s merger with Time Warner on antitrust grounds. The case may be headed toward a historic courtroom showdown.

The telco noted in the filing, “AT&T intends to vigorously contest the DOJ’s allegations and is confident that the Court will reject the DOJ’s challenge to the merger.”

AT&T’s deal for Time Warner, originally struck Oct. 22, 2016, would combine the media conglomerate’s Warner Bros., Turner and HBO divisions with the telecom giant and its DirecTV pay-TV unit.

According to the DOJ’s suit, AT&T’s ownership of Time Warner would give it excessive market power and give it incentives to withhold content like HBO or NBA games from rivals or new entrants. Industry observers have questioned whether the Justice Department’s challenge to the deal was motivated by Donald Trump’s animus toward Time Warner-owned CNN.

AT&T has rejected the DOJ’s arguments for blocking the deal, with CEO Randall Stephenson saying the action “stretches the reach of antitrust law beyond the breaking point.”

Last month, AT&T and Time Warner extended the merger agreement (previously set to expire Oct. 22, 2017) for a “short period of time” as they awaited what they had expected would be DOJ approval of the deal.

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