Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Trump has told confidants he is concerned the union of Time Warner and AT&T would give the combined company too much power in the media business. Bloomberg said Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is also against the deal on the same grounds.
Time Warner shares fell nearly 3% as the report circulated but then recovered some of that loss to close with a 1.7% drop to $95.09. AT&T shares barely moved on the news, closing at $42.65.
The Time Warner-AT&T deal will be reviewed by the Department of Justice and possibly the FCC. The President does not have the power to block it directly, but the incoming Trump administration is clearly setting a new tone in Washington that could make approval of the deal politically untenable, especially if advocacy groups mount a vociferous opposition campaign.
During the presidential campaign, Trump was quick to signal his opposition to the merger of AT&T, with its heft in wireless service and DirecTV, and the parent company of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, after the merger agreement was announced Oct. 22. But after the election, many pundits predicted it would ultimately be approved — with conditions — in keeping with the pro-business agenda of many of Trump’s cabinet picks.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and AT&T chief Randall Stephenson were grilled at a Senate hearing last month about the ramifications of the merger. The generally hospitable tone of Republican senators during the session also seemed to signal that the deal would not run up against GOP opposition.
Trump has also been critical of Time Warner’s CNN and its coverage of his unconventional and meteoric rise in politics, which has spurred talk of the White House having political bias against the deal.