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Time Warner Shares Rise As FCC Chief Says He Probably Won’t Review AT&T Deal

Deadline logo Deadline 2/27/2017 David Lieberman
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Time Warner shares jumped late this morning after FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that his agency probably won’t review its $85 billion deal to sell itself to AT&T.

Last week, the entertainment giant agreed to sell its only TV station, Atlanta’s WPCH, to Meredith for $70 million — which means it would not be among the assets Time Warner will sell to the telco giant.

“That is the regulatory hook for FCC review,” Pai told the Wall Street Journal at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “My understanding is that the deal won’t be presented to the commission.”

The report sent Time Warner shares up 1.4% to a 52-week high.

If the FCC is out of the picture, then the deal would only have to pass muster with the Justice Department, which could oppose it only if it finds an antitrust problem.

If the Trump administration opposes the deal — the president said he did during last year’s election campaign — then it would have been easier to attack at the FCC. The independent, quasi-judicial agency can fight mergers that it believes would hurt the public interest, which can be defined broadly.

Time Warner has other licenses besides the one held by WPCH. But they involve technical, mostly backhaul, functions and either might not have to be sold to AT&T or can be replaced by distribution technologies that don’t use the public airwaves.

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