Summary: Justice Dept. antitrust chief Thomas Barnett brushed aside criticism from two Democratic congressmen of his agency's recent unconditional approval of AT&T's $80 billion BellSouth buyout. Stating 'the mere size of a company... doesn't tell you whether a merger is going to harm consumer welfare' in this era, Barnett said 'it's a pretty straightforward deal for us.' The last regulatory hurdle remaining is the FCC, which has delayed a final vote on it three times. Some consumer groups have criticized the merger as placing too much of the telecom infrastructure under one company's control -- AT&T would gain complete power over the nation's largest cellular provider, Cingular Wireless, jointly owned by the two companies.
Related links: Media coverage: WSJ article . Commentary: Citi: Buy AT&T and Sell Verizon • Apple's iPhone Would Undermine Carriers' Handset Domination . Conference call transcripts: AT&T Q3 2006 Earnings Call Transcript .
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: AT&T (NYSE:T), BellSouth (BLS) • ETFs: iShares DJ Telecom (NYSEARCA:IYZ), ML Telecom HOLDR (NYSEARCA:TTH)
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