Time Warner Inc. shares plummeted after the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Justice Department is “actively” considering a lawsuit to block its $85.4 billion sale to AT&T Inc.
Shares of the owner of HBO, TBS and CNN sank 6.5 percent, their biggest decline in more than a year, before recovering slightly. AT&T shares were little changed. Regulators are also discussing possible settlement terms that would approve the deal with conditions, according to the newspaper, which cited unidentified people familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department routinely prepares lawsuits to block major deals even while it negotiates settlements. But the Journal’s report raises fresh doubt about a transaction that AT&T officials have repeatedly said would close by the end of this year. AT&T and the government aren’t close to an agreement on a settlement, the Journal said.
AT&T is seeking to acquire Time Warner to add mobile video programming to its suite of wireless services and target customers with advertising. For Time Warner, the deal is a way to ensure distribution for its movies and TV shows in an era of rapid change for the industry.