President-elect Donald Trump might still be against the $85 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner, but AT&T thinks the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be powerless to stop it.
There are two potential government groups that might have a say in whether the deal goes through: the FCC and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The FCC is by far the bigger threat, since it has a broad mandate to kill mergers it thinks aren’t in the “public interest,” and can also put restrictions on the merger. The DOJ, on the other hand, has to actually prove the deal is anti-competitive, which is a taller order.
But AT&T believes the merger won’t be under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission. In November, AT&T outlined the case to Wall Street at RBC’s Technology, Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference in New York.
“The only scenario in which the FCC would have jurisdiction is if Time Warner transfers certain broadcast licenses to AT&T,” wrote RBC analyst Jonathan Atkin, who viewed the presentation by AT&T’s Chris Womack and Michael Black. And in a new regulatory filing, Time Warner confirmed that it doesn’t need to do so.
In the filing, Time Warner said it “will not need to transfer any of its FCC licenses to AT&T in order to continue to conduct its business operations after the closing,” according to Reuters. Under the purvey of the FCC, Time Warner only has WPCH-TV, a broadcast station, and a few smaller licenses, Reuters reports.
“The company believes these licenses … can be offloaded easily,” Atkin wrote in November, after viewing the AT&T presentation.
That would leave only the DOJ.
Still, the news that Trump has continued to be against the deal might worry some.
On the campaign trail, he railed against the merger. “As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN — a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” Trump said in a speech in October.
Trump’s negative view of the deal comes “partly from his frustration with CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, one of the people said,” according to Bloomberg.
Trump hasn’t spoken publicly about the merger in a significant way since he took aim at it during his campaign.
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