AT&T CEO: Merger With Time Warner Still On Track To Close By End Of Year

Mergers are never a sure thing, but the recent political atmosphere has been, let’s say, even less predictable than usual. Even so, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson remains optimistic that his Death Star will be able to acquire Time Warner and all its juicy media properties before the end of the year… and that the FCC won’t be involved in approving the deal.

AT&T announced its intention to buy Time Warner back in October. The move, however, was met with immediate skepticism from a surprisingly broad array of people, not only including consumer advocates and a number of U.S. Senators but also Donald Trump, then still a candidate for the presidency he now holds.

Stephenson, however, is optimistic AT&T will be able to purchase the parent company of CNN, HBO, Warner Brothers, and more in due course. “That’s going at pace,” Stephenson said an interview with CNBC this morning, adding, “We still think we’ll be closed by the end of the year.”

Part of Stephenson’s confidence may come from the fact that this merger only has to go through one regulatory body. Media and telecom mergers usually have to go through two independent review processes in order to be approved: one with the Department of Justice, and one with the FCC. Either or both can choose to approve the merger as-is, approve it with certain conditions, or reject it entirely.

But AT&T is skipping the FCC part of the equation entirely on this one, in line with earlier speculation.

“The filing has been made with the Department of Justice. The review is ongoing right now. There will not be a filing with the FCC. We’re going to assume no licenses from Time Warner,” Stephenson told CNBC. “It will be a one-track review. The Department of Justice will review it.”

“I’ve had two conversations with President Trump and his administration. In neither one of those conversations was there any discussion about this deal,” Stephenson added. “So those kinds of conversations would not happen.”

The White House doesn’t have any part of the transaction approval process, but the President does nominate a candidate for the top role in the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department. As new Attorney General Jefferson Sessions only took the role this week, it’s still unknown who will eventually be tapped to head up the Antitrust role.

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