AT&T announced an $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner back in 2016, which the Justice Department rebutted with an antitrust lawsuit last November. The resulting AT&T-Time Warner megacompany retained ownership of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.
However, now the DOJ appears to have changed its mind, and served notice today in federal court in Washington, D.C. The action took AT&T by surprise.
"The (lower) court's decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned", said a statement from David McAtee, AT&T's general counsel. It said it was "surprised" by the government's decision and "ready to defend the court's decision".More news: Local politicians say province needs to respond to Greyhound cuts
No matter how the Justice Department's appeal unfolds, AT&T's completed acquisition of Time Warner could prove hard to untangle.
"My guess is that the government is going to try to show that a lot of important evidence was rejected by the judge, and the judge put too much weight on the testimony of the merging parties", said Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department antitrust official who now leads Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group that opposed the merger.
Critics of the deal have argued the court approval offers an effective green light to other major deals that could end up boosting prices and hurting consumers. AT&T is a phone, cable and satellite behemoth that became the biggest pay-TV provider in the USA with its acquisition of DirecTV in 2014. Trump has publicly feuded with Time Warner's CNN, calling it "failing" and a purveyor of "fake news".
AT&T argued, during the trial, that it needed to grow to survive in the era of Google, Amazon and Netflix.More news: Wimbledon 2018: Serena Williams to face Angelique Kerber in women's final
Spokespeople for the DOJ declined to comment. AT&T has committed to certain conditions under which it will run Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN.
Media commentators suggested Trump was critical of the deal because of his antipathy for CNN, which has lambasted his presidency and is a regular target for his Twitter attacks.
The logos for Time Warner and AT&T appear in June above trading posts at the New York Stock Exchange.More news: Kate Middleton Has Worn This Designer at All of Her Children’s Christenings