DOJ can ‘follow the coyote off a cliff’ in AT&T appeal

The Justice Department’s appeal of AT&T’s deal for Time Warner could lead to some frustration for the telecom giant’s shareholders for some time here, Raymond James wrote in a note to investors Friday.

The government said Thursday it would appeal the merger’s approval, a month after the U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled there would be no conditions required for the bid. The ruling was a broad loss for the DOJ and was expected to spur a wave of deals in the telecom and media industries.

Raymond James downgraded its outlook on AT&T to neutral from a buy, saying the DOJ’s appeal is “a negative catalyst for the stock,” calling it “a frustrating delay.”

“This is a significant overhang for an extended period and is not conducive to share price appreciation,” the firm wrote. “For investors with longer-time horizons an entry point is likely to emerge during this time, otherwise we see better opportunities elsewhere in our coverage.”

A federal judge ruled in June that the $85.4 billion deal was legal, imposing no conditions on the merger. The Justice Department had 60 days to appeal the ruling. AT&T General Counsel David McAtee responded on Thursday, saying the company was “surprised” by the appeal given the length and specificity of the ruling. CEO Randall Stephenson went a step further, saying the chances of the DOJ’s appeal being successful are “remote” and that it “changes nothing” for the companies.

“It’s a very narrow path that would have to be traveled to get this thing reversed in any way,” Stephenson told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday. “The merger is closed. We own Time Warner.”

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