AT&T-Time Warner Merger Gets European Approval

European authorities have given the seal of approval to AT&T's $85 billion takeover of media giant Time Warner.

The decision moves AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) a step closer to a deal that would turn it into a major content force, with assets that produce some of the most popular TV shows and movies on the planet. (See AT&T Shakes Industry With $85B TW Bid.)

AT&T welcomed the update in an official statement on its website.

"We appreciate the skilled work of the European Commission's team for their timely effort to analyze and clear the AT&T-Time Warner merger," said Bob Quinn, AT&T's senior vice president for external and legislative affairs, in the statement.

"This is an important approval from a highly respected authority," added Quinn. "The global clearance process is on track, and we look forward to creating a company that will lead the next wave of innovation in the media and telecommunications industries."

While regulatory clearance in Europe is important, AT&T could face much bigger obstacles in securing permission from the US Department of Justice, which is said to be closely scrutinizing the planned merger and assessing the impact it could have.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , meanwhile, has said it does not see a need to review the merger because it will not involve any transfer of airwaves licenses.

President Donald Trump had lashed out at the merger plans while still on the election campaign trail last year, describing it as an example of "the power structure I'm fighting."

Want to know more about pay-TV subscriber trends? Check out our dedicated video services content channel here on Light Reading.

Since then, however, there has been growing optimism about an improvement in business conditions, including a sense that Trump's administration is prepared to wave through mergers and acquisitions that his predecessor's had opposed.

There is even speculation that a long-mooted tie-up between T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), the country's third- and fourth-biggest mobile operators, could finally take place. (See SoftBank, DT to Start Talks on Sprint, T-Mobile Merger – Report.)

But the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) differs in that it would unite giants from entirely separate industries, with ramifications for other players in each of those sectors.

Some commentators, for instance, fear that AT&T may be able to prevent its rivals from obtaining access to popular shows like Westworld, Veep and Game of Thrones if the Time Warner deal goes through.

The operator appears keen to make such content available to its millions of mobile Internet customers at affordable rates, having talked up the appeal of mobile TV services on numerous occasions.

AT&T has previously said it hopes to close the deal by the end of the year.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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