AT&T approval boosts stocks of possible merger targets

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The ruling comes one day after the repeal of net neutrality, meaning that AT&T now has more freedom to prioritize the delivery of select content on its network. "In the meantime, not only may consumers be harmed directly by the anticompetitive harms that this merger will cause, such as higher bills and fewer choices of programming and provider, but also by the many other mergers it will encourage".

Using unusually strong language, Leon said it would be "manifestly unjust" for the government to ask him to put his own ruling on hold, because if he were to do so, it could have the effect of killing the deal, which has a deadline for completion of June 21.

Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, Warner Bros.

This will marry AT&T's distribution services with Time Warner's media content, making one mega-company.

AT&T and Time Warner's lead lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said outside court that the companies were gratified and relieved.

The ruling could also prompt a cascade of pay TV companies buying television and movie makers, with Comcast Corp's bid for some Twenty-First Century Fox Inc assets potentially the first out of the gate.

The decision represents a setback for the Department of Justice, whose antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, had argued strenuously against the merger. The merged company, executives said, would be better able to compete in an era in which people spend more time watching video on phones and tablets and less time on traditional live TV on a big screen.

The merger will consolidate AT&T's telecommunications services with Time Warner's content, which includes some of the biggest names in media like HBO, CNN, and sports broadcasts from the National Basketball Association and NCAA.

AT&T Inc won approval from a USA court on Tuesday to buy Time Warner Inc for $85 billion, without conditions, allowing AT&T to compete with internet companies that dominate digital advertising and providing new sources of revenue.

More news: Amazon Signs With Premier League To Broadcast Pro Soccer Games

"The court has spoken", U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said.

Bloomberg via Getty Images AT&T CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson exits federal court in April. Other acquisitions on the table include Disney's offer to buy 21st Century Fox, drug store CVS's bid for Aetna and T-Mobile's potential merger with Sprint. "I urge the Justice Department to take swift action to appeal this judgment to ensure that competition and consumers are protected".

In a recent court filing, Redstone said her long-term plan was to create a combined company, which would unite media assets including CBS' broadcast networks, Showtime, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, and then sell it.

AT&T's attorneys, meanwhile, countered that the merger was necessary for both companies to compete against fast-growing video offerings from Netflix, Amazon, and others.

Although AT&T does not have to go through with the merger and Time Warner does not have to accept, with federal approval the $85.4 billion deal is now virtually complete.

Time Warner's sale could shape how much U.S. consumers pay for streaming TV and movies.

Critics charged that Trump had come out against the deal because of Time Warner's CNN, which has been highly critical of his presidency.

Shares of AT&T spiked immediately after the announcement and are now down about 2% in after-hours trading.

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