European antitrust regulator approves AT&T-Time Warner $85.4 bn merger

The European antitrust regulator yesterday approved AT&T Inc's $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc, but the mega deal still requires the nod from the US Department of Justice.

The approval comes two months after US President Donald Trump had said during his election campaign that he opposes the merger, and is reported to be still against the deal.

In October 2016, telecom giant AT&T offered to buy multinational media and entertainment conglomerate Time Warner for $85.4 billion in cash and stock. (See: AT&T confirms $85.4-bn acquisition of Time Warner)

The European Commission said that it found that the proposed merger would not raise competition concerns, because there are no overlaps between the companies' activities in the European Economic Area.

New York-based global media and entertainment giant Time Warner has a great portfolio of content creation and aggregation, and iconic brands across video programming and TV / film production.

Time Warner's US and international cable networks include TNT, TBS, CNN, HBO, and Cartoon Network / Adult Swim, and has sports rights that include to National Basketball Association, NCAA Men's Championship Basketball Tournament, and Major League Baseball.It also owns the Warner Bros film studio, producer of the ''Batman'' and ''Harry Potter'' film franchises. The company also owns a 10-per cent stake in video streaming site Hulu.

Its film franchises include Harry Potter, DC Entertainment, and LEGO, while its TV series include The Big Bang Theory, The Voice, and Gotham. The company also owns a 10-per cent stake in video streaming site Hulu.

Time Warner has been a takeover target since the past three years. In 2014, 21st Century Fox, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, withdrew its $80-billion takeover offer Time Warner rejected the proposal saying that it was worth more.

AT&T had in 2014 entered a joint venture, Otter Media, with the Chernin Group to invest in media businesses, and has rolled out video streaming services

In 2015, US cable and internet provider, Comcast Corp withdrew its $45.2-billion proposed acquisition of Time Warner's cable TV service unit, after the mega deal faced opposition from consumers and a possible veto from regulators.

The unit was later acquired by Charter Communications for $56 billion.

The AT&T-Time Warner deal will combine Time Warner's vast library of content with AT&T's pay TV subscriber base and TV, which is the  world's largest, and mobile and broadband distribution.

Dallas-based AT&T is the second largest provider of mobile telephone services and the largest provider of fixed telephone services in the US.

It also provides broadband subscription television services through its newly acquired DirecTV. It has TV customers in the US and 11 Latin American countries.

AT&T is the largest telecommunications company in the world by revenue, and the world's 17th-largest mobile telecom operator.

The deal has already been criticised by both the Republicans and the Democrats and various consumer groups since AT&T already has over 100 million subscribers across its wireless, broadband and DirecTV offerings.

Lawmakers are concerned about the limitation of consumer choice since the deal will create a company that creates its own content and provides the means to deliver both its own offerings and of its competitors.