AT&T-Time Warner Merger Gets The Green Light From Federal Court
14 June, 2018, 06:30
The news comes a day after a federal judge approved a massive $85 billion takeover by telecom-broadband giant AT&T or media-entertainment conglomerate Time Warner that could reshape the media and communications landscape.
Comcast's latest overture - the second it's made in the months since Disney first struck its initial agreement with Fox late a year ago - follows a court ruling earlier this week that cleared a path for another giant media merger between AT&T and Time Warner. In addition the cable giant says it will reimburse Fox the full $1.525bn break-up fee it would owe Disney if Team Rodent's offer is turned down. That would be Rupert Murdoch, the largest shareholder of Fox. Disney has made its own $52.4 billion bid for the bulk of the company.
Craig Moffett, an analyst with MoffettNathanson, said in a research note that Disney could prevail for other reasons. "This is even higher than the Street thought, which speaks to Comcast really wanting these key assets".
Comcast if successful would be able to expand beyond USA borders to new markets in Europe and India.
Well, this may make things hard for Disney. The offer is expected to spark a bidding war between the two powerhouses, Disney and Comcast. Content is becoming more important as ways to deliver content proliferate.
AT&T has said it needed Time Warner to compete with Amazon, Netflix and Google in streaming TV and the company promised to give consumers more choices.
Comcast was in talks to buy Fox late previous year.
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The Fox stable includes The Simpsons and the X-Men movie franchise. Comcast has said it will add Netflix to some cable bundles. That's key for Comcast, which now doesn't have an worldwide presence. The ruling suggests that Trump's Department of Justice wouldn't be able to stop a Comcast/Fox deal.
The bid sets up a fight with Disney, which announced its own plan to acquire those businesses past year.
Comcast's board has already unanimously approved the Fox proposal, and no investor vote will be needed.
To see how this could happen, consider that, after the merger, AT&T would have the rights to all of HBO's output, CNN, live National Basketball Association and NCAA broadcasts, and many more desirable Time Warner properties.
Outgoing Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes also learned the news from a phone call, and he was relieved and very happy about the ruling, a spokesperson said. This would be a direct move against Disney, which itself has been eyeing Fox. That could raise regulatory objections.
Both deals share similarities: AT&T and Comcast are distributors trying to buy content creators. Comcast has also agreed to pay a $2.5 billion reverse breakup fee in case the acquisition actually does get squashed by the government. AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Like Disney, Comcast is willing to divest Fox's regional sports networks if regulators demand it, according to company filings.