Antitrust: U.S. sues to stop media merger
The Justice Department sued this week to block AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner, said Cecilia Kang and Michael de la Merced in The New York Times, “setting up a showdown” between the companies and the Trump administration. The government says the union between AT&T, one of the largest internet and phone providers, and Time Warner, which owns HBO, Warner Bros., and CNN, would raise prices for consumers, because AT&T could charge competitors hefty fees to distribute Time Warner content. The move shows the Trump administration is taking a “starkly different” antitrust approach than President Obama did. A similar deal, Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal, was approved in 2011.
President Trump’s Twitter habit could play a role in the lawsuit to block the merger, said Steven Overly in Politico.com. Over the past year, his tweets “have frequently maligned Time Warner– owned CNN as ‘fake news,’” and there were reports this month that the government had floated the sale of CNN as a condition for approving the deal. “If there’s any evidence the White House interfered because it dislikes CNN’s journalism, that would be a disaster,” said Craig Aaron, president of advocacy group Free Press, which opposes the merger. Trump’s tweets have already influenced legal decisions this year, including those involving the ban on transgender troops and restrictions on travelers from Muslim countries.
Economy: Yellen to exit Fed in February
Janet Yellen will step down from the Federal Reserve board early next year, when her successor, Jerome Powell, takes the reins of the central bank, said Jeff Cox in CNBC.com. Yellen had the option of remaining as a Fed governor until 2024. During her four-year term as chair, Yellen presided over four interest rate hikes “as the Fed sought to normalize policy” following “the extremely accommodative measures” undertaken after the financial crisis. Yellen’s exit will leave four empty seats on the Fed board for President Trump to fill.
Autos: Uber orders 24,000 autonomous Volvos
Uber has inked a deal to buy 24,000 self-driving vehicles from Volvo— one of the biggest orders yet for autonomous cars, said Peter Holley in The Washington Post. The ride-hailing company plans to use the Volvo fleet to ferry passengers without a human driver by 2019. The order would account for about 4.5 percent of Volvo’s current sales and puts the automaker “in an unusual position”: selling cars to a company whose goal is to dramatically reduce the number of people who own cars. But Volvo “said it could no longer avoid the inevitable.”
Retail: Alibaba moving further offline
Alibaba is taking a major stake in China’s top grocery chain, said Cate Cadell and Donny Kwok in Reuters.com. The Chinese e-commerce giant will invest $2.9 billion in the Sun Art Retail Group, which operates 450 huge supermarkets across China, as “part of a wider push into offline retail.” The move mirrors Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods, as both companies expand into groceries and try to fuse online and offline shopping experiences. Alibaba has invested roughly $9.3 billion in brick-and-mortar stores in the past two years.
Media: Koch brothers to bankroll Time bid
“Charles and David Koch are reportedly putting $550 million behind Meredith Corp.’s revived bid to purchase Time Inc.,” said Edward Helmore in The Guardian. Meredith, the Des Moines–based publisher of titles such as Better Homes & Gardens and Martha Stewart Living, has attempted to acquire Time Inc., publisher of Time, People, and Entertainment Weekly, three times since 2013. Meredith’s latest bid would reportedly be backed by the conservative billionaire Kochs, who own businesses ranging “from oil to ranching and farming.” The Kochs previously considered a purchase of the Tribune Co.’s eight newspapers in 2013, but ultimately declined to make a bid. ■