Comcast, Time Warner Cable to meet Justice Department officials over merger

April 20, 2015, 1:20 PM UTC
Comcast truck 2014
POMPANO BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 13: A Comcast truck is seen parked at one of their centers on February 13, 2014 in Pompano Beach, Florida. Today, Comcast announced a $45-billion offer for Time Warner Cable. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photograph by Joe Raedle — Getty Images

Representatives of Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC) are preparing to meet U.S. Department of Justice officials to discuss competition concerns raised by the planned $45 billion merger of the two cable giants, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

The meeting next Wednesday would aim to negotiate possible concessions addressing those concerns, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The paper said it would be the first time the two cable giants have met with regulators since announcing their proposed deal a year ago.

Staffers at both the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission remain concerned the combined company would have too much power in the Internet broadband market and would have unfair competitive leverage against TV channel owners and businesses offering online video programming, the Journal said.

Representatives of the two companies and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the Journal report.

News of the planned meeting followed a report by Bloomberg on Friday that staff attorneys at the Justice Department’s antitrust division were nearing a recommendation to block the deal.

A spokesman for Time Warner Cable questioned the Bloomberg report, saying on Friday the company had been working productively with both the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.

A source close to Comcast said on Friday that discussions with the DOJ had been positive and that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was still gathering material from companies, making it early for any discussion of conditions for a deal.

The Bloomberg report said Justice Department attorneys were citing concerns for consumers as they lean against it and their review could be handed in as soon as next week. A final decision would be made by senior officials.
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In its report on Saturday, the Journal said the Justice Department and the FCC were nearing the final stages of scrutinizing the deal. Discussions on potential remedies to concerns would be an indication that the two agencies had not yet made a firm or final decision on the merger, the paper said.

But it added the meeting could be the first of many and said it was not clear whether the companies could offer concessions that would satisfy the regulators.

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