AT&T Cashes In $1 Billion for Central European Media Stake, Cites Ongoing Push To Raise Cash, Reduce Debt

John Stankey AT&T

The WarnerMedia parent was CME’s largest shareholder and announced Tuesday that it’s received the hefty payment and that it no longer backstops approximately $575 million in CME debt. AT&T acquired its stake in CME with the acquisition of Time Warner in 2018. It announced the sale a year ago.

The telco and media giant said the transaction “is consistent with AT&T’s ongoing efforts to monetize non-core assets to drive incremental shareholder value.” The company is in the midst of a major push to lower its net debt to strengthen its balance sheet, including through asset sales.

Wall Street continues to anticipate some kind of deal around AT&T-owned satellite broadcaster DirecTV. That could include selling a stake or merging it with smaller rival Dish. Antitrust regulators blocked a proposed combination of the two once before but that was nearly 20 years ago and competition in the video market has altered drastically since. Dish founder Charlie Ergen has said he thinks a merger is inevitable. Those businesses are in secular decline — meaning they continue to lose subscribers as the pay TV ecosystem shifts — but still throw off tons of cash.

AT&T also said will “remain opportunistic around opportunities to further improve its borrowing costs.” The company has been issuing new debt to pay down pre-existing, higher-interest rate debt.

AT&T plans to announce third-quarter results on Thursday, October 22, 2020.

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