June 7, 2018 / 7:33 PM / 5 months ago

U.S. antitrust official says worries over limiting vertical deals 'misplaced'

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows the Time Warner shares price at the New York Stock Exchange and AT&T logo in New York, NY, U.S., on November 15, 2017 and on October 23, 2016 respectively. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (L) and REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A top antitrust official at the U.S. Justice Department attempted to reassure investors on Thursday that worries that regulators would crack down on proposed combinations of two companies on a supply chain — known as vertical mergers — were overblown.

Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general for antitrust, said that most proposed transactions were either good for consumers or neutral.

But the department’s decision in November to sue to stop AT&T Inc (T.N), which owns DirecTV, from buying Time Warner Inc TWX.N made investors question whether other vertical deals might also meet with scepticism from antitrust enforcers.

Delrahim said that was overblown.

“I understand that some journalists and observers have recently expressed concern that the antitrust division no longer believes that vertical mergers can be efficient and beneficial to competition and consumers,” he said.

Delrahim said that some of these point at the decision to sue to try to stop AT&T from buying Time Warner “as a supposed bellwether,” he said. “Rest assured these concerns are misplaced.”

Two other vertical deals under review are Cigna Corp’s (CI.N) plan to buy Express Scripts Holding Co (ESRX.O) for $52 billion (£38.7 billion) and CVS Health Corp’s (CVS.N) planned merger with Aetna Inc (AET.N) for $69 billion.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Writing by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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