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AT&T-Time Warner deal delay? Reports say feds wants TV properties sold

By in Press Enterprise on November 8, 2017

By The Associated Press

AT&T says it’s uncertain when its $85 billion deal for Time Warner will close, making investors worry that regulators may try to block it or require significant changes.

Reports from The New York Times , CNN and other outlets, citing unidentified people, said the Justice Department wants to require the companies to sell Turner Broadcasting, which houses CNN, TBS and TNT; or to sell satellite TV provider DirecTV, which AT&T bought in 2015.

AT&T now says it’s “uncertain” when its $85 billion Time Warner purchase will close. AT&T had maintained that the deal would be done by the end of 2017. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement, “I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.” AT&T officials did not immediately respond to other questions, nor did Time Warner or the Justice Department.

AT&T had previously targeted the end of the year for closing the deal, and Wall Street analysts had widely expected the deal to go through. Obama-era regulators in 2011 approved a similar media merger, cable company Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal, after Comcast agreed to a slew of business requirements.

At an investors conference Wednesday, AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said he could not comment on discussions with Justice, which he described as ongoing.

“But with those discussions, I can now say that the timing of the closing of the deal is now uncertain,” he added.

If AT&T and Justice cannot agree to conditions, Justice can sue to block the deal.

Time Warner shares dropped 4.8 percent to $90.10 in afternoon trading Wednesday. AT&T stock rose less than 1 percent, to $33.29.

The Justice Department’s new antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, has said he prefers “structural” changes to a deal, like selling off assets, rather than having the government monitor a company’s promises to abide by […]    

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