Updated Friday, 9:15 a.m.:
Comcast’s chief executive, Brian Roberts, confirmed reports Friday that the company’s merger with Time Warner Cable is being terminated. Roberts issued the following statement:
“Today, we move on. Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn’t agree, we could walk away. Comcast NBCUniversal is a unique company with strong momentum. Throughout this entire process, our employees have kept their eye on the ball and we have had fantastic operating results. I want to thank them and the employees of Time Warner Cable for their tireless efforts. I couldn’t be more proud of this company and I am truly excited for what’s next.”
Comcast Corp. is planning to drop its $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable Inc. Bloomberg TV reported the news on Thursday, citing anonymous sources.
The mega merger, first announced in early 2014, would have combined the country’s two largest cable and broadband operators. However, the deal has been dogged by regulatory hurdles as of late. Comcast and TWC met with the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this week, ostensibly to address antitrust concerns. More recently, the Federal Communications Commission was said to have recommended that the case be sent to an administrative law judge for a hearing, a situation some saw as a death knell.
A Comcast spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Up until last week at least, Wall Street was largely confident that merger would be approved. An April survey of 50 cable and telecom investors by Macquarie Equities showed 83 percent believed the merger would take place -- up from 80 percent in January -- with most expecting it to be approved by the end of the summer. On Friday, however, reports emerged that staffers at the DOJ were leaning toward recommending that the merger be blocked.
The deal was fiercely opposed by many consumer groups, labor unions and some net neutrality advocates who worried that the combined company could use its increased size to squash competition and discourage innovation. “Stop Mega Comcast,” a group of 27 public interest groups, labor unions and for-profit companies, has been aggressively urging regulators to block the merger, while critics in the TV and media industries said Comcast, which also owns NBCUniversal, would gain an unfair advantage in programming negotiations.
According to a source cited by CNBC, Comcast could drop its bid as soon as Friday.
Christopher Zara is a senior writer who covers media and culture. News tips? Email me here. Follow me on Twitter @christopherzara.