AT&T told to sell CNN by United States regulators

AT&T told to sell CNN by United States regulators

"AT&T has been told by the US Department of Justice that it needs to sell CNN" to get the acquisition approved, three people with direct knowledge of the negotiations told FT.

Another sticking point in discussions is the length of time that the USA government wants to impose conditions on what AT&T can and cannot do after a deal.

That's a reflection of President Trump's hostility to the deal (and his hatred of CNN, which he frequently refers to as "fake news"), the paper says.

Another DOJ source said "the parties offered to divest CNN and the DOJ Antitrust Division flatly rejected it". However, the government could require sales of key networks or other "stringent" conditions that would make the deal less beneficial to AT&T, they said.

"It could be something as significant as all of Turner", said the source, adding that the Justice Department hadn't identified which unit must be sold.

On Wall Street, Time Warner fell 6.5 percent to close at US$88.50, while AT&T shares jumped 1.1 percent to close at US$33.44.

"Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so", he said.

"The Department is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts", the department said in a statement.

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"We are in active discussions with the DoJ [department of justice]", AT&T chief financial officer John Stephens said Wednesday.

"AT&T is opposed to selling the TV network and is preparing to take the Trump administration to court, arguing the deal with Time Warner does not pose any competition violations", the Financial Times reported.

AT&T wants to buy Time Warner, which owns the premium channel HBO, movie studio Warner Bros and news channel CNN, so it can bundle mobile service with video entertainment.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter. In that case, the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission attached several conditions to Comcast's business practices, including promises that Comcast would not withhold content from rival streaming services.

AT&T and Time Warner agreed to the $85 billion deal last fall. A year ago on the campaign trail, Trump, criticized the proposed AT&T-Time Warner deal and vowed that as president his Justice Department would block it.

"For over 40 years, vertical mergers like this one have always been approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitors from the market", AT&T said last week. Shortly after the first one, Mr. Trump lashed out at CNN on Twitter, saying of the news network that "their credibility will soon be gone!"

It would, however, represent a change in stance by the head of the justice department's antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, who prior to taking office said he did not "see [the deal] as a major antitrust problem". The New York Times reported in July that Trump advisers had mentioned the acquisition as "a potential point of leverage" with CNN.

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