As the companies prepare for the legal battle against the Justice Department’s efforts to block the union, AT&T and Time Warner have extended their $85.4 billion merger agreement once again.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last Friday, AT&T said the companies agreed to extend the deadline for completing the deal to June 21. The two had earlier extended the agreement originally set in October 2016 through April 22 in light of the prolonged regulatory review.
In November last, the Justice Department had filed a suit in Federal Court to block the merger on anti-trust grounds.
The AT&T-Time Warner agreement called for AT&T to pay Time Warner a breakup fee of $500 million if AT&T was unable to close the deal.
In relation to the size of the transaction, and an indication of AT&T’s confidence that the merger would pass muster with regulators because the two companies have virtually no overlapping operations.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit comes amid a fraught period in Washington, with President Donald Trump regularly bashing Time Warner’s CNN for what he describes as spreading “fake news.” The president’s animosity to CNN is seen as driving the Justice Department’s demand that AT&T sell either Turner, the division that houses CNN, or satcaster DirecTV as a condition of approval.
On Thursday, the D.C. District Court judge presiding over the case warned both sides to keep the sparring inside his courtroom, and not in the media.
The trial is set to begin on March 19 in Washington, D.C.