One of the regulatory agencies looking over the proposed Comcast / Time Warner Cable merger may be about to give it the thumbs down, citing concerns over potential harm to customers.
Bloomberg cites the ubiquitous "people familiar with the matter" in saying that antitrust lawyers at the Department of Justice are poised to recommend against the merger.
Attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concerns that consumers would be harmed and could submit their review as soon as next week, said the people.
The antitrust lawyers will present their findings to Renata Hesse, a deputy assistant attorney general for antitrust, who will decide, along with the division’s top officials, whether to file a federal lawsuit to block the deal, they said.
The Justice Department lawyers have been contacting outside parties in the last few weeks to shore up evidence to support a potential case against the merger, one of the people said.
The other agency reviewing the deal, the Federal Communications Commission, is not sold either, according to reports. The deal, which looked like a sure thing a year ago, is in serious danger of falling apart. Some have already proclaimed it dead.
Bloomberg has news on that front, too, saying "officials at the antitrust division and the Federal Communications Commission, which is also reviewing the deal, aren’t negotiating with Comcast about conditions to the merger that would resolve concerns."
Comcast's official line on the merger is that it is pro-consumer and pro-competition.
Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable will ensure that a responsible and committed steward delivers advanced video and high-speed data services and innovation to these customers. The proposed transaction is pro-consumer, pro-competitive, strongly in the public interest, and approvable. It will deliver better services and technology to Time Warner Cable’s subscribers and result in no reduction of choice for consumers. Following the acquisition and possible divestiture of some subscribers, Comcast subscribers will represent essentially the same share of nationwide MVPD subscribers as Comcast’s shares following the Adelphia and AT&T Broadband transactions in a much more competitive and dynamic marketplace. This transaction will create a world-class technology and media company, differentiated by its ability to deliver ground-breaking products on a superior network while leveraging a national platform to create operating efficiencies and economies of scale.
Last month, the fourth-largest cable provider agreed to acquire the sixth-largest as Charter Commutations offered $10,4 billion for Bright House Networks. If the Comcast / Time Warner Cable deal were to go through, the #1 and #2 providers in the US would combine to form a behemoth. The two remain the most despised companies in America.
Image via Steven Depolo, Flickr Creative Commons