AT&T-Time Warner Judge Fires Starting Gun in the Battle Against Tech

Posted June 15, 2018

Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's shares hit a record high on Wednesday as approval for AT&T Inc's $85 billion buyout of Time Warner Inc spurred speculation that Comcast Corp would make an offer for most of Fox's assets.

Comcast has made an all-cash bid of $65 billion to acquire a majority of Fox's media assets (including 21st Century Fox), upping the pressure on its biggest rival in the proceedings: The Walt Discney Co. Comcast's bid is all-cash, compared with Disney's all-stock offer. "Press reports suggest Comcast will come in with a $60B bid (all cash) vs. Disney's existing $52 billion bid (all stock)".

As part of the Fox/Disney deal, Fox agreed to a $1.52B penalty "breakup fee" if Fox pulls out of the deal for anything but a regulatory issue. Disney announced its plan to purchase Fox, including including the 20th Century Fox Film and Television studios, along with cable and global TV businesses, in mid-December. The deal would not include Fox News.

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The offer is the first of many expected to follow Tuesday's federal court ruling giving the go-ahead to AT&T to buy Time Warner. Comcast said last month that its new offer would be at least as favorable to Fox shareholders as Disney's terms. AT&T is the US's second largest mobile phone operator and also owns the satellite TV broadcaster DirecTV. Once the transition is completed, the remaining Fox assets will be formed into a new company, jokingly called "Diet Fox" by Rice, and management changes will be announced over the next year. That has proven the case this afternoon with Comcast formerly revealing the bid, which it says is, at minimum, just as "favorable" for Fox as Disney's own offer.

Disney and Comcast could even end up splitting ownership.

Comcast's offer comes after Fox went with Disney despite a much higher bid in the low $60 billion range.

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John Bergmayer of the consumer group Public Knowledge said any Comcast deal should face scrutiny, especially in light of the expiration of provisions from its 2011 takeover of NBCU.

The Trump administration had opposed the merger, which promises to join one of the country's biggest telecom providers with a media powerhouse that owns the Warner Bros. movie studio and DC Comics as well as the cable-TV networks CNN, HBO, TBS and TNT. "AT&T and Time Warner concluded that each had a problem the other could solve", he wrote.

Judge Leon said the USA failed to prove the merger would give Time Warner increased power to negotiate fees for its content.

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