AT&T’s $85 billion bid to acquire Time Warner was originally approved by the US courts, but a government appeal could yet derail the deal

The US’ Department of Justice’s decision to appeal against the ruling permitting AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner will make little difference to the final outcome of the case, according to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

Speaking with CNBC news on Friday, Stephenson said he remained extremely confident that the deal would still be allowed to complete.  

"We think the likelihood of this thing being reversed and overturned is really remote. The merger is closed. We own Time Warner," he told CNBC.  

Initially, Judge Richard J Leon approved the takeover bid, but the US government has subsequently decided to appeal the decision.  

"We got a very thorough, thoughtful and fact-based order that basically said that this transaction is pro-competitive… at this stage we don’t know exactly what the government’s basis will be for the appeal," Stephenson said.  

While Stephenson remains extremely bullish on the deal’s prospects, he acknowledged that AT&T had expected a challenge from the government at some stage down the line.

"The government’s anti-trust division seems very intent on pursuing this transaction, so we advised our board after we received Judge Leon’s opinion – it’s a terrific opinion, it’s a very thoughtful and thorough opinion – but we told the board that you should anticipate an appeal. So, we have been expecting an appeal," he said.

The deal has been two years in the making and would provide AT&T with access to an unprecedented range of content produced by Time Warner and its subsidiaries.