AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Prospects Get Even Bleaker: Judge Puts Stay on Anti-Trust Trial

Judge grants AT&T's request to stop its legal battle with the Department of Justice

In the clearest sign yet that AT&T's proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile has hit an impasse, District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on Monday granted a stay sought jointly by the Department of Justice and AT&T in an anti-trust trial that had been scheduled to start in February.

AT&T may indeed be getting cold feet about proceeding with expensive litigation, given what now appear to be bleak prospects for getting regulatory approval for its merger.

The move comes less than two weeks after the Federal Communications Commission allowed AT&T to withdraw its merger application. That decision came after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski signaled the commission would not approve the merger.

The FCC went on to release details of its staff report, which found that the deal would likely stymie competition in 99 of the country’s top 100 markets while granting AT&T too large a percentage of spectrum in 274 market areas (covering 66 percent of the country's population).

A status report laying out AT&T’s intentions is due on January 12, 2012.

The report, according to a DOJ statement, should include whether AT&T intends “to proceed with the transaction at issue in the litigation, [or] proceed with another transaction, the status of related proceedings with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and their plans and timetable for seeking any necessary approval from the FCC.”

According to Bloomberg News, AT&T said it is “actively considering whether and how to revise our current transaction to achieve the necessary regulatory approvals.”