The United States telecommunications giant AT&T is set to acquire media powerhouse Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion, in a deal that could possibly be the biggest in the world this year.
This is AT&T’s — which has nearly 142 million North American wireless subscribers — big step into content generation after it bought satellite-TV company DirecTV for $48.5 billion. Time Warner controls major cable TV channels like HBO and CNN, along with the film studio responsible for the “Batman” and “Harry Potter” film franchises — Warner Bros.
“When Jeff and I started talking, it became clear to us very quickly that we shared a very similar vision,” AT&T CEO Randall L. Stephenson told reporters on a conference call Saturday, referring to the Time Warner chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes. “Time Warner, we believe, is the clear leader in premium content.”
The multibillion dollar deal — $107.50 a share in cash and stock — was finalized at a meeting of the two boards Saturday. However, a major hurdle in its way will be to get the approval of the regulators. Skeptical of giving too much “power in the hands of too few,” at a rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed to kill the deal if he was elected.
“Such a massive consolidation in this industry requires rigorous evaluation and serious scrutiny,” Reuters quoted U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, former attorney general of Connecticut, as saying. “I will be looking closely at what this merger means for consumers and their pocketbooks.”
Time Warner’s older major deal in 2001 — where it sold itself to AOL at the peak of the dot-com boom — has been considered a big disaster by analysts. Bewkes went on to reject an $80 billion offer from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc for Time Warner in 2014.
Amy Yong, an analyst at Macquarie Capital, told the Associated Press, “ If you look at history, it's still an unproven,” referring to big deals like the AT&T and Time Warner merger . She added that the telecom giant was paying “a huge price.”
However, at a time when the wireless clientele is diminishing, AT&T needs to find more avenues to maintain its standing in the market. The success story of Comcast’s 2011 $30 billion acquisition of NBCUniversal, may prove to be the model to follow with AT&T’s latest acquisition.