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Time Warner Stock Jumps, AT&T Falls After Ruling Clears Path to Merger

Shares of AT&T dropped — and Time Warner stock shot up — after a judge’s decision to allow the telco’s $85 billion takeover of the media conglomerate to proceed.

AT&T’s stock fell as much as 3% and Time Warner shares were up as much as 5.3% to more than $100 per share in after-hours trading Tuesday.

After the decision was issued Tuesday, AT&T said it expected to close the Time Warner deal on or before Wednesday, June 20.

AT&T will take on a large amount of additional debt to clinch the Time Warner pact, with its long-term debt rising from $134 billion to more than $175 billion. AT&T’s stock has been trading at “multi-year lows” — at 40% discount to the rest of the market — and “we believe much of the uncertainty is priced in [to the share price],” UBS analyst John Hodulik wrote in a research note prior to the ruling.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon approving the AT&T-Time Warner deal, with no conditions attached, has broader implications across the U.S. media sector. The favorable decision, in a rebuke of the Justice Department’s case opposing the deal, is viewed as a green light for other major M&A moves — and several scenarios are already in play.

Disney’s $52.4 bid for major pieces of 21st Century Fox is pending a vote by Fox shareholders. But Comcast has said it’s prepped to top Disney’s bid for the 21CF assets — and it’s widely expected that Comcast will pull the trigger now that the AT&T-Time Warner merger has the go-ahead. Meanwhile, both Comcast and 21st Century Fox also are vying for U.K. satellite operator Sky.

Fox shares rose 5.2% in after-hours trading Tuesday, while Comcast fell as much as 4% and Disney dropped as much as 2%.

Elsewhere on the media landscape, gainers in after-hours trading Tuesday included CBS (+3.9%) and Viacom (+4.3%). CBS is currently battling Viacom in court over the terms of Viacom’s merger offer. Shares of Lionsgate — which is seen as a possible acquisition target — popped 7.8% after regular trading hours. Discovery shares climbed 3.7%.

Netflix shares dipped around 1% after hours Tuesday. Verizon stock was roughly flat, while Charter Communications was down 0.2%. Rising in after-hours trading were T-Mobile (+1.6%) and Sprint (+2.6%), which announced a merger agreement on April 29.

Prior to the news on the decision in the case, AT&T stock closed up 0.5% (to $34.50 per share) and Time Warner closed up 0.05% in regular trading (to $96.22 per share) which concluded at 4 p.m. ET.

Under AT&T’s original deal for Time Warner, announced back in October 2016, the telco offered $107.50 per share for the media company ($53.75 per share in cash and $53.75 per share in AT&T stock). But because of a collar based on the average price of AT&T’s stock at closing, the deal is worth around $103 per share to Time Warner shareholders.

The antitrust case was brought by the Trump administration’s Justice Department, which had argued AT&T’s ownership of Time Warner would put the telco in a position to raise programming prices for rivals.

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