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AT&T's merger with Time Warner will stand, after DOJ loses its appeal and drops the case

Key Points
  • In June, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled the $85.4 billion bid was legal, and imposed no conditions on the merger.
  • The Department of Justice appealed the ruling in July, after AT&T formally closed the deal.
  • The case holds wide-ranging impact on the type of vertical integrations that have become common among tech and telecom companies, and has taken on a political bent with regard to the Trump administration. 
Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, speaking at the Business Roundtable CEO Innovation Summit in Washington, DC. on Dec. 6th, 2018.  
Janhvi Bhojwani | CNBC

A federal appeals judge ruled Tuesday AT&T's merger with Time Warner can stand.

The ruling brings to a conclusion a years-long merger process that has pitted AT&T against U.S. antitrust regulators. Shares of AT&T popped immediately following the news to trade a fraction of 1 percent higher.

"The merger of these innovative companies has already yielded significant consumer benefits, and it will continue to do so for years to come. While we respect the important role that the U.S. Department of Justice plays in the merger review process, we trust that today's unanimous decision from the D.C. Circuit will end this litigation," AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement.

The Department of Justice will not pursue further litigation in the case, according to a statement from an agency spokesperson. 

"We are grateful that the Court of Appeals considered our objections to the District Court opinion. The Department has no plans to seek further review," the spokesperson said. 

In June, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled the $85.4 billion bid was legal, and imposed no conditions on the merger. The DOJ maintained the merger would reduce competition in the pay-TV industry, citing concerns that AT&T, owner of satellite television provider DirecTV, could charge rival distributors more for Time Warner content and spur higher prices for consumers.

The agency appealed the ruling in July, after AT&T formally closed the deal.

The case holds wide-ranging impact on the type of vertical integrations that have become common among tech and telecom companies, and has taken on a political bent with regard to the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump is an outspoken critic of CNN, a Time Warner asset that came under AT&T's jurisdiction with the closing of the merger.

Here's the ruling:

VIDEO10:5910:59
Watch CNBC's full interview with AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson