Trading has resumed with shares up more than 12% — the highest they’ve sold for since 2001. AT&T’s stock price is down nearly 4% today.
The Journal says that negotiations over a cash-and-stock deal “have come together quickly, are fluid, and still could fall through.”
Bloomberg says that after it disclosed the talks yesterday AT&T hit the accelerator fearing that other giants such as Google or Apple might try to outbid the telco.
AT&T owns DirecTV and is said to be eager to secure the kind of content Time Warner has at networks including CNN, TNT, TBS, and HBO, and its Warner Bros. studio.
Virtually all of the major media stocks are up at mid-day on speculation that an AT&T-Time Warner deal would result in a new era of merger mania. Gainers include Discovery (6.5%), Scripps Networks (5.8%), AMC Networks (4.5%), Viacom (3.8%), CBS (2.4%), and Lionsgate (2.2%).
Wall Street has largely been skeptical about the prospects for an AT&T-Time Warner union.
Marrying content and distribution has been tried several times in the past, with generally poor results,” Cowen & Co’s Doug Creutz says. “We view Comcast-[NBCUniversal] as the exception that proves the rule as that was a reasonably priced acquisition of an undermanaged asset (the latter of which Time Warner definitely is not).”
AT&T would probably have to pay about $100 billion — a stock price of $100 a share “at a bare minimum” — Brean Capital’s Alan Gould says.
Time Warner would probably be better off merging with CBS, he adds. But the broadcast company is weighing a merger with Viacom — both owned by Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements which “has indicated that it is not interested in any deal where it would not remain the controlling shareholder.”
In 2014 Time Warner rejected a $75 billion offer from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox. Since then CEO Jeff Bewkes “has gotten a lot of grief from shareholders…especially since sentiment on media in general has become increasingly negative,” Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker says.
But a deal blending AT&T — the No. 1 TV distributor and No. 2 wireless provider — with Time Warner might run into trouble in Washington.
Some officials “have expressed buyers’ remorse” for allowing Comcast to acquire NBCU, Morgan Lewis’s Andrew Lipman says. He also anticipates that the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division “is likely to be more aggressive” if Hillary Clinton becomes president.