Will This Merger Ever Die?

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Back in August, when the Department of Justice filed its antitrust lawsuit to halt AT&T's (NYS: T) proposed merger with T-Mobile, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the deal "... would result in tens of millions of consumers ... facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for mobile wireless services ..."

In November, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said "AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile would substantially lessen competition in violation of the antitrust laws."

That statement caused AT&T to withdraw its merger application from the FCC on Thanksgiving Day.

Now, according to Dow Jones Newswires, the DOJ may be thinking that its lawsuit may not be necessary because of AT&T's withdrawing its application. DOJ lawyer Joseph Wayland said department options will include either asking for a stay of the court proceedings, or withdrawing the case until AT&T and T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom reapply to the FCC.

District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, the judge presiding over the DOJ proceedings, is said to be really annoyed with AT&T for withdrawing the application and wants to find out if it is even worth it to keep to the current trial schedule, as AT&T would like. "The landscape has changed -- it has clearly changed," she said. The trial had been scheduled to take place in February.

The merger deal has a March 20 deadline, but can be extended until September.

Couple the above with the FCC's releasing a preliminary staff report that essentially rebutted AT&T's claims of improved service to the nation's consumers, and the promise of almost 100,000 new jobs, it doesn't look promising for this merger to stay alive.

It's obvious that the FCC and the DOJ fear this deal would create a duopoly of AT&T and Verizon (NYS: VZ) controlling 80 percent of the mobile subscribers nationwide, which would essentially leave Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) a distant third and with little competitive power.

In a change of tactics, AT&T released a statement today saying that it and Deutsche Telekom have "... advised Judge Huvelle this morning that they wish to stay any further court proceedings until January 18, 2012, to allow the two companies time to evaluate all options."

I wonder if one of those options might be pulling the plug on this dying deal?

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At the time this article was published Fool contributorDan Radovskyowns shares of AT&T. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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