Comcast deal shuddering to a halt in Washington

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Hard to guarantee good predatory behavior.

UPDATE 24 April 2015: Comcast and Time Warner have officially called it off.

The mega-merger and market swap involving Comcast, Time Warner and Charter is either dead or dying, according to news reports. Bloomberg reported that Comcast isn’t happy with FCC and federal department of justice plans to send the deal into a hearing process, which is usually a prelude to killing proposed mergers, although it’s possible to mount a defence. Rather than go through that, though, Comcast would rather just spike the deal altogether, according to Bloomberg.

Company representatives met with justice department and FCC staff on Wednesday. According to the Wall Street Journal, staffers weren’t convinced that trying to get Comcast to abide by conditions that would mitigate the harm the deal would do is a lost cause

Justice officials made clear during the session they had significant concerns about the deal, but it wasn’t a drop-dead meeting and the two sides are expected to continue a dialogue, according to people familiar with the matter.

Justice officials are said to be wary of attempting to address the agency’s concerns through “behavioral remedies,” or pledges by Comcast that it will conduct business in a certain way.

But there might not be a lot of scope for more “structural” conditions on the deal. Comcast and Time Warner Cable already have deals with Charter Communications Inc. to sell or spin off systems serving 3.9 million customers if the merger goes through.

That wariness mirrors concerns in California, where commissioner Mike Florio is proposing to scuttle the deal too, largely because there’s little confidence that putting conditions on it would work.