Comcast said to abandon $45B merger with TWC

Comcast said to abandon $45B merger with TWC
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Comcast is reportedly dropping its $45 billion plan to merger with Time Warner Cable amid signs of opposition from federal regulators.

The report from Bloomberg News on Thursday comes after heightened scrutiny from both the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which have shown concern about the combination of the nation’s two largest cable companies.

A formal announcement could come on Friday, Bloomberg reported.

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A Comcast spokeswoman declined to comment on the report immediately.

Supporters of the merger have argued for more than a year that it would benefit consumers across the country. But those arguments appeared to have largely fallen on deaf ears in recent weeks.

As the merger's review has stretched on, officials at both the Justice Department and FCC have sent signals that regulators believe the deal would be harmful to the public interest and could violate antitrust laws.

The latest signs came late Wednesday, when reports emerged that FCC staffers had decided to recommend that the matter move to a hearing. The move was a potential deathblow to the deal, because it would have brought the issue to an administrative law judge and could have dragged the review out for years.

Stock of both Comcast and Time Warner Cable took a quick tumble in the moments immediately after Bloomberg’s report appeared on Thursday afternoon.

The merger would have made Comcast the high-speed Internet provider for about half the nation and the cable TV provider for about 30 percent. That much control of the nation’s access to the Internet and television — added to the fact that Comcast owns NBC Universal and its slate of channels and other  programming — would have given it both the ability and incentive to block competing cable companies and content providers, critics said.

For a year, the companies had waged a war to counter that message.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t compete in any of the same markets, executives repeatedly noted, meaning that no customer would lose an option for cable service because of the merger. Additionally, the companies had planned to spin off nearly 4 million customers if the merger was approved.

The companies had decided to forgo a breakup fee, however, meaning that there will not be a financial penalty for abandoning the deal.