Merg­ers’ Day in Court Con­gloms ev­ery­where are anx­iously await­ing the rul­ing on AT&T-TIME Warner

AT&T-TIME Warner combo is the open­ing act, but there are many op­tions shap­ing what’s to come

Variety - - Contents - Story by TED JOHN­SON and TODD SPANGLER

AF­TER A SIX-WEEK TRIAL, June 12 will mark the date when a fed­eral judge in Wash­ing­ton is sched­uled to make a huge re­veal that could very well shape the fu­ture di­rec­tion of the me­dia, tech­nol­ogy and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries.

Richard J. Leon se­lected a spe­cific time — 4 p.m. EDT — to an­nounce his de­ci­sion in U.S. v. AT&T Inc. et al, the case that the Jus­tice De­part­ment filed to stop the com­bi­na­tion of AT&T with Time Warner.

The case un­doubt­edly will im­pact fu­ture deals, in­clud­ing The Walt Dis­ney Co.’s pro­posed ac­qui­si­tion of Fox’s as­sets and Com­cast’s po­ten­tial coun­terof­fer. There also is the on­go­ing drama over a Cbs-vi­a­com re­union, and spec­u­la­tion that Ver­i­zon is look­ing for a con­tent gi­ant.

“The [Wall Street] con­sen­sus is that AT&T has an 80% chance of win­ning,” says Craig Mof­fett of re­search firm Mof­fet­tnathanson. “I’m not in the con­sen­sus. I think it’s a coin flip. Be­cause of that, I would cau­tion against look­ing at this as a bi­nary yes- or-no de­ci­sion. A lot de­pends not only on what the judge says but how he says it. There will be a lot of im­por­tant nu­ance in the verdict it­self.”

The de­ci­sion could go a num­ber of ways:

SCE­NARIO: AT&T WINS. If Leon were to rule that the merger can pro­ceed as is, it would be a re­lief to the com­pa­nies, which had set a dead­line of June 21 to com­plete their deal.

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