On the most direct impact, shares of AT&T (T), which were already up 6% over the past week, gave up some of that gain during after-hours trading and declined 2%. Meanwhile, shares of Time Warner (TWX), up only 3% the past week, gained another 4%.
Most analysts had expected that District Judge Richard Leon would rule in favor of the companies and strike down a Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the deal, which may have muted some of the immediate reaction. As predicted, Judge Leon ruled that the government had not proven that the combined company would be bad for consumers or harm competition.
But the decision is also expected to have significant ripple effects, as it likely will make the government less likely to challenge some other pending deals. On Tuesday night, shares of T-Mobile (TMUS) and Sprint (S), which are in the midst of a $26 billion merger, gained, even though they are direct competitors, not complementary players like AT&T and Time Warner. Shares of Sprint rose 3% and T-Mobile’s stock price gained 2%.
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In a deal that more closely resembles the one that Judge Leon approved, Walt Disney (DIS) wants to buy most of 21st Century Fox (FOXA) for $52 billion. In a twist, Comcast (CMCSA) may try to scoop Disney with an even higher bid.
After the AT&T decision was announced, 21st Century Fox shares shot up 7% on the increased likelihood of a bidding war, while Disney slumped 2%. Comcast’s shares fell 4%, as the price for winning the assets likely just increased.
Some others in the entertainment realm were also affected. CBS, another potential acquisition target, jumped 4%, while Netflix, which may face stronger competition, saw its stock price drop 1%. Most other tech giants, including Apple, Amazon, and Google, weren’t seen as strongly impacted and their shares were about unchanged. Dish Network, also a potential target of a larger company, jumped 3%.
Among the potential buyers in the consolidating media landscape, shares of Charter Communications, the second-largest cable company, were unchanged, as were shares of telecom giant Verizon. Cable company Charter (CHTR) has not been involved in any rumored deals lately, and Verizon (VZ) has talked down interest in buying a major media company while selecting for its next CEO an executive with experience in the communications infrastructure business.