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Wall Street analysts say AT&T will ‘prevail’ against DOJ over Time Warner

  • Analysts believe legal precedent and case law "heavily favor" AT&T in its battle versus the DOJ over the company's deal to acquire Time Warner.
  • "After reviewing DOJ's lawsuit against AT&T-Time Warner and watching AT&T's press conference, we still see a settlement as possible and, failing that, we believe AT&T would prevail in court," Cowen's research team writes in a note to clients Tuesday.
Randall Stephenson
Katie Kramer | CNBC
Randall Stephenson

Analysts believe AT&T has a strong case in court against the Department of Justice over its deal to acquire Time Warner.

The Justice Department sued on Monday to block AT&T's merger with Time Warner, calling it an "illegal" combination that harms consumers and stifles innovation, DOJ officials said.

"After reviewing DOJ's lawsuit against AT&T-Time Warner and watching AT&T's press conference, we still see a settlement as possible and, failing that, we believe AT&T would prevail in court," Cowen's research team wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.

"DOJ always bears the burden in court. But here we believe it will face a higher-than-normal burden because it needs to explain its departure from longstanding clearance of vertical transactions."

AT&T announced an agreement in October 2016 to acquire Time Warner in a cash and stock deal valued at more than $85 billion.

AT&T's chief financial officer, John Stephens, said on Nov. 8 that the acquisition of Time Warner is a "vertical integration" merger across industries. He cited how the government has not blocked a "vertical" deal in more than 40 years.

In similar fashion, Raymond James downplayed the DOJ's case against the AT&T-Time Warner merger.

"We believe the department's case appears weak as it ignores precedent and conveniently ignores the shifting digital nature of the industry. We also note that there have not been any state attorneys general that have sided with the department," analyst Frank Louthan wrote in a note to clients Monday. "We do not believe AT&T will entertain any divestitures or wholesale/resale remedies. … We believe the case law and significant legal precedent for this deal heavily favor AT&T."

The two companies' shares are underperforming the market so far this year. AT&T stock has declined 19 percent year to date through Monday, while Time Warner shares have fallen 9 percent. The S&P 500 is up 15 percent in the same time period.

Cowen reiterated its market perform rating on AT&T shares, while Raymond James reaffirmed its outperform rating for the company.