AT&T Inc. and the US Department of Justice are discussing conditions the No. 2 wireless carrier needs to meet in order to win government antitrust approval for its acquisition of Time Warner Inc., Reuters reports, citing sources familiar with the situation.
The US$85.4 billion deal, unveiled in October 2016, is opposed by an array of consumer groups and competitors on the grounds that it would give the wireless company too much power over the media it would carry on its own network.
Wall Street largely believes the transaction will go through, but its success is not assured, and the issue has become a political battleground.
Donald Trump, who has accused Time Warner’s CNN and other media of being unfair to him, criticized the deal on the campaign trail last year and vowed that as president his Justice Department would block it. As president, he has not revisited the subject.
Approval of the deal marks an early challenge for Trump’s appointee as the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, who was confirmed by Congress in late September. Delrahim said at his confirmation hearing in May that he would not discuss antitrust matters with the White House.
Delrahim, perhaps looking to make a mark in his new job, may want to ramp up pressure on AT&T. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Thursday that the Justice Department was laying the groundwork for a potential lawsuit aimed at stopping the deal if settlement talks did not work out. .
The Journal reported that the outcome could go either way. It did not say what the sticking points were. The Justice Department did not reply to requests for comment.
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