AT&T, DirecTV appear optimistic deal soon will be approved

AT&T-DirecTV merger inches closer; companies extend deal "to facilitate obtaining final regulatory approval"

AT&T and DirecTV appear increasingly optimistic that their $48.5-billion marriage soon will win the blessing of federal regulators.

On Friday, the two companies agreed to extend their merger agreement, which had been scheduled to expire Monday.

"Each of AT&T and DirecTV has elected to extend the ... 'termination date' of the merger agreement for a short period of time to facilitate obtaining final regulatory approval required to close the merger," AT&T said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The merger agreement was signed May 18, 2014.  At that time, the companies did not anticipate such a lengthy review by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.

AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV, based in El Segundo, would create the nation's largest pay-TV company with more than 25 million customers in the U.S.

AT&T has said it anticipates completing the merger by the end of June. It recently told investors that it expects substantial cost savings after the consolidation of the two companies -- as much as $2.5 billion in savings.

In recent weeks, other companies, including Netflix and Dish Network, have lobbied the federal government to apply several conditions to the merger, if the government gives its consent, to encourage competition.

The FCC's review of the merger has accelerated in the last week.

Last week, a federal appeals court ruled on a related lawsuit brought by CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co. and other programmers that had objected to the proposed dissemination of information from their confidential contracts. 

The appeals court ruled in favor of the programming companies.  The lawsuit had acted as something of a speed bump, slowing down the FCC's review of the AT&T-DirecTV merger.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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