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Apr. 21, 2015, 7:17 PM
- FCC officials tomorrow will brief staff about the proposed $45B merger of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), Reuters is reporting -- though with no news about which way officials are thinking.
- The briefing may be light on specifics but might offer some clues to how the FCC will deal with recent public opposition to the buyout. The FCC's ruling on the deal will focus on public interest, while the Department of Justice focuses on antitrust concerns.
- The staff will also be briefed tomorrow on AT&T's (NYSE:T) $48B deal to buy DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV), according to Reuters.
- Previously: WSJ: Comcast, Time Warner Cable to meet with Justice Dept. (Apr. 18 2015)
- Previously: Comcast defends TWC deal, announces 2-Gbps California plan (Apr. 17 2015)
Apr. 9, 2015, 9:08 PM
- Don't let recent merger challenges and failures fool you, Michael Wolff argues: "M&A mania" is coming to a media conglomerate near you amid pressure for a new wave of consolidation.
- "Perhaps never before has consolidation been so much the flavor of the month, nor has it seemed so difficult to get a taste," he writes. "The table is set, but nobody's sitting down to eat."
- If Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) fails in its bid for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), he notes, it just means other cablers will step up to match Comcast's ambition, and Comcast will still look for a way to stay dominant.
- He points to a number of mergers he thinks are easily imaginable: Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) and FOX? Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)? TWC and Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR)? Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA) and, well, most anyone (Disney, Fox, CBS)?
- Factors encouraging the wave: Media's all about video now, and the pure-play aspect makes merger logic cleaner; distribution and content are separate and now even antagonistic businesses; the growth of over-the-top means not unbundling but re-bundling; and everyone needs scale for negotiation strength in content and ad deals.
- Other key players: John Malone (LMCA, LBTYA, STRZA); Verizon (NYSE:VZ); Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF); Scripps Networks (NYSE:SNI); Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX); DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) and AT&T (NYSE:T); Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH).
Apr. 7, 2015, 11:49 AM
- As expected, AT&T's (NYSE:T) $49B purchase of DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) is headed for an easier approval than Comcast's takeover of Time Warner Cable -- and the AT&T deal may wrap before April is through, with a few "action packed" weeks ahead, says Morgan Stanley's Simon Flannery.
- Flannery sees limited opposition to the deal, though he does warn about risks including AT&T's leverage in the deal and its recent $18B purchase of wireless spectrum.
- But the purchase may have taken too long -- way too long in coming, says analyst Craig Moffett, since the deal is "oh so 2005."
- "There was a certain logic to it at the time," Moffett says, pointing out that buying a satellite distribution arm would have been better 10 years ago, when Verizon was building a future-proof fiber network and AT&T's network limitations were clear even then.
- "Don't get us wrong. DirecTV is a well-run asset," Moffett writes, "with a sterling brand and strong management, and the company's free cash flow will clearly help sustain AT&T's dividend. But it is hard to make the case for genuine strategic fit between the two companies."
- Previously: With regulator eyes on Comcast-TWC, is AT&T's DirecTV purchase skating? (Mar. 17 2015)
Mar. 27, 2015, 8:58 PM
- Glenn Lurie, CEO of AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), says he's not worried about the outcome if Sprint (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) -- third and fourth in the U.S. wireless market behind AT&T and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) -- decide to merge.
- "We are a very, very different company than the other three," he tells FierceWireless. "So whatever happens with them, I'm not really that concerned. I'm concerned about how we execute and how we operate."
- His No. 1 goal, Lurie says, is to reduce churn and preserve the company's current subscribers in order to upsell other services.
- Chatter continues to suggest that Sprint and T-Mobile may have to think about combining to achieve competitive scale, and in the meantime they're firing salvos in a price war that Lurie says AT&T won't join: "This industry is not commoditized at all."
- Previously: Goldman upgrades T-Mobile; DT reiterates merger wish (Jan. 20 2015)
Mar. 17, 2015, 2:03 PM
- With the proposed merger of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) getting all the oxygen from the post-net-neutrality FCC, the $48.5B deal that AT&T (NYSE:T) has to acquire DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) appears to be getting a relatively free pass.
- Both deals will create a company controlling more than a quarter of pay TV -- so it may be Internet access that's drawing extra scrutiny. The combined Comcast-TWC company would serve high-speed Internet to almost 40% of Americans.
- Even FCC petitions opposing the deals are telling: 20 against Comcast-TWC, five against AT&T-DirecTV. And 88,000 brief comments opposing Comcast-TWC, 14,000 opposing AT&T-DirecTV.
- One critic of the T-DTV deal told Reuters that Justice Department reviewers responded in a meeting with "few questions" and "blank stares."
- Today: CMCSA -0.7%; TWC -1%; T +0.1%; DTV +0.2%.
- Previously: FCC pauses review of Comcast-TWC, AT&T-DTV; likely weeks away (Mar. 13 2015)
- Previously: Brean downgrades DirecTV to Hold; AT&T offer priced in (Feb. 23 2015)
Mar. 13, 2015, 4:28 PM
- As signaled before, the FCC has paused the 180-day "shot clock" on reviewing two megamergers -- Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) deal for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), and AT&T's (NYSE:T) deal to buy DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) -- as it's tied up with another case over programming contracts.
- The review of the deals was set to expire by the end of March, but now may take somewhat longer, likely several more weeks.
- The cause is the ongoing dispute with programming firms -- Disney (NYSE:DIS), CBS, Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), Viacom (VIA, VIAB) and others -- over whether third parties commenting on the mergers will get access to private documents containing sensitive pricing and strategy information.
- The FCC has argued it has sufficient protections to keep those details from getting out. But the merger reviews now appear to be dependent entirely on that case's timetable.
- "In reaching this conclusion, the commission reserves the right to restart the clock as it believes will best serve the public interest," the FCC said.
Mar. 2, 2015, 8:23 PM
- Les Moonves said on CNBC last month that CBS was "very happy being alone," and the CEO doubled down on that talk at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference.
- Moonves says his COO tells him that CBS will be a $100 stock in four years, so buyers or merger partners like Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) or Viacom (VIA, VIAB) would have to pay "a very high price." CBS shares gained 4.5% Monday to close at $61.75.
- He also expressed little concern about smaller cable bundles or any lack of negotiating power by eschewing a merger, saying CBS will be in every bundle. "People can't live without CBS ... We like the hand we're playing."
- The company faces new negotiations with DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) and Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) at the end of the year.
- Previously: AMC Networks finally looking for a deal? (Feb. 25 2015)
- Previously: Cumulus higher in late trade as CBS M&A chatter flies (Feb. 24 2015)
Feb. 23, 2015, 3:53 PM
- DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) is off 0.3% as Brean downgrades shares, noting that the arbitrage gap between DTV's price and AT&T's offer has "largely closed."
- The analysts downgraded the satellite provider to Hold, from Buy.
- Brean sees "continued momenmtum" in the U.S. and stabilizing results in Latin America, and think DTV will make AT&T stronger financially.
Jan. 26, 2015, 7:39 AM
- AT&T (NYSE:T) agrees to acquire Nextel Mexico from NII Holdings and its network of ~76M people in the Mexican wireless network for $1.875B.
- AT&T plans to integrate Nextel Mexico with Iusacell, which AT&T agreed to buy last year in a deal valued at $2.5B at the time.
- The acquisition is subject to a bankruptcy auction and approvals by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, which is currently overseeing the restructuring of NII Holdings; the deal also is subject to regulatory approval by Mexico's telecom regulator.
Jan. 18, 2015, 12:57 PM
- TechCrunch reports Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is interested in acquiring Softcard, the mobile payments platform launched by AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) in 2010 - it was previously known as Isis, before changing its name for obvious reasons. Though Softcard's owners have invested hundreds of millions in the venture, sources state Google's purchase price could be below $100M.
- Like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, Softcard relies on NFC radios to enable transactions. And like Wallet, it has struggled to get off the ground, as U.S. consumers overwhelmingly stick with card swipes. Hard data on Apple Pay usage remains limited for now.
- Softcard recently laid off 60 employees. Meanwhile, it was reported in 2013 that Google had spent $300M on Wallet-related acquisitions, with little to show for it. The adoption of EMV (chip-and-PIN) readers by U.S. retailers could give NFC solutions a boost, by making card payments a little less convenient.
- The WSJ reports Google is partnering with consulting giant PwC to bid on a $2B+ contract to update the DoD's electronic health records system. PwC says Google's tools could both improve the system's security and performance, and lower costs. A group featuring IBM, HP (NYSE:HPQ), and CSC has made a rival bid.
- Ad tech firm Marin Software (NYSE:MRIN) provides some encouraging mobile search data ahead of Google's Jan. 29 Q4 report. A Marin study found mobile accounted for 49% of Q4 U.S. search ad spend, up from 42% in Q3, and that smartphone ad click rates were 38% higher than PC rates (thanks in part to accidental clicks?). On the other hand, mobile still only accounted for 32% of conversions.
- Medium writer Backchannel provides a deep dive into Google Search's evolution in an era where users increasingly want search engines to know the precise meaning of their queries. Part 1 looks at Google's efforts to optimize for mobile (aided by its Knowledge Graph and Google Now). Part 2 looks at Google's real-world research into the information needs of users. Part 3 looks at Google's investments in A.I./deep learning to deliver far more intelligent search results and spontaneously surface useful information.
Jan. 16, 2015, 2:59 PM
- AT&T's (T +1.6%) $2.5B purchase of Mexican mobile carrier Iusacell is officially on the books. Ma Bell has used the occasion to reiterate the merger will allow it to offer cross-border mobile services. "It won't matter which country you're in or which country you're calling it will all be one network, one customer experience."
- AT&T has also announced Thaddeus Arroyo, formerly the president of AT&T's Technology Development unit and before that its CIO, will run Iusacell. Adrian Steckel, until now Iusacell's CEO, will "assist Arroyo with the integration of Iusacell into AT&T."
- Separately, Reuters reports China Telecom (CHA -2.2%) is "preparing a possible bid" to build and run a Mexican wholesale mobile network expected to cost $10B over 10 years. The network, mandated by Mexico's 2013 telecom reform bill, aims to allow America Movil's (AMX -0.6%) rivals (such as Iusacell) to provide better coverage without having to rely on AMX, which is still looking for a buyer for the Mexican assets it's shedding to bring its share below 50%.
Jan. 9, 2015, 5:00 AM
- Mexican broadcaster Grupo Televisa (NYSE:TV) has completed the sale of its 50% stake in mobile operator Iusacell to JV partner Grupo Salinas, clearing the way for AT&T (NYSE:T) to acquire the cellphone company.
- Televisa used some of the proceeds from the $717M sale to buy Mexican cable company Cablevision Red, a regional operator with around 650K subscriptions, for about 3B pesos ($204M).
- Previously: AT&T receives approval for Iusacell deal (Dec. 22 2014)
Dec. 31, 2014, 8:42 AM
- Streaming: Sony (NYSE:SNE), HBO (NYSE:TWX), CBS (NYSE:CBS), and Dish Networks (NASDAQ:DISH) are set to unveil streaming products in 2015. The theory of the companies that the skinny bundles will draw in more cord-cutters and cord-nevers than they will cannibalize current pay-TV subscribers will be put to the test. The rush of streaming options could help or hurt Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) depending upon which analysis an investor leans on.
- Theater traffic rebound: Exhibitors (CNK, RGC, AMC, CKEC, IMAX) and movie studios (LGF, VIA, VIAB, DIS, FOXA, CMCSA, TWX) maintain that the decline in theater attendance in 2014 (-6%) was due to a slate of films light on blockbusters. A bounce is forecast for 2015 with high-profile films such as Avengers: The Age of Ultron, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Fifty Shades of Grey, Jurassic World, Spectre (James Bond), and Mission Impossible 5 all set to premiere - along with the reboot of the Star Wars franchise in December. Capex spending on theater upgrades could also help boost in-theater spending and average ticket price for exhibitors.
- Mergers: If regulators allow the Comcast-Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) and AT&T-DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) mergers to sail through it could clear a path for other media combinations, note analysts. Potential buyers include Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), Wanda Group, Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY), and a TWX-rebuffed 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA). Content producers which could be targets include Starz (NASDAQ:STRZA), Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF), DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ:DWA), AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX), and Scripps Networks (NYSE:SNI). A split-up Madison Square Garden (NASDAQ:MSG) could also be enticing.
Dec. 22, 2014, 1:40 AM
- Mexico's Federal Competition Commission has approved AT&T's (NYSE:T) $1.7B purchase of local cellphone company Iusacell.
- The competition regulator set conditions on the deal to "avoid risks to the process of competition" in markets where Iusacell would compete with America Movil (NYSE:AMX), which previously counted AT&T as a minority investor.
- AT&T sold its America Movil shares in the summer, before announcing its deal with Iusacell in November.
Nov. 7, 2014, 4:22 PM
- Iusacell has 8.6M Mexican mobile subs, and a 3G network that covers 70% of the country's population (120M). AT&T (NYSE:T) is paying $2.5B in cash to buy Iusacell from parent Grupo Salinas, after accounting for debt. The deal is expected to close in Q1 2015.
- AT&T highlights Mexico's relatively low mobile/smartphone penetration rates while discussing the deal, as well as synergies with its U.S. mobile ops and recent regulatory moves meant to loosen America Movil's (NYSE:AMX) market dominance. AT&T was previously believed to be interested in Mexican assets AMX is looking to sell to appease regulators.
- AT&T "plans to expand Iusacells network to cover millions of additional consumers and businesses in Mexico." At the same time, AT&T won't be acquiring Iusacell's Total Play pay-TV/wireline broadband business. DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV), which AT&T is set to acquire, owns 41% of local satellite TV provider Sky Mexico.
- Separately, AT&T has set a 2015 capex budget of $18B, down from 2014's $21B. The carrier declares its Project VIP network expansion project to be ahead of schedule, with the 4G expansion part largely complete.
- T +0.7% AH. AMX -0.6%.
Oct. 7, 2014, 2:15 PM
- America Movil's (AMX -0.1%) planned Mexican telecom asset sale could extend beyond Mexico's eastern coast, Carlos Slim tells Bloomberg. AMX has already announced plans to sell Eastern Mexican assets to appease regulators who want the carrier's local telecom share to fall below 50%.
- AT&T (NYSE:T), which recently sold its AMX stake to Slim for $5.6B, has suggested it's interested in the assets. For now, Slim only says AMX is "working with the potential buyers to have an agreement."
AT&T Inc, through its subsidiaries and affiliates, provides wireless and wireline telecommunications services in the United States and internationally. The Company has three reportable segments: Wireless, Wireline, and Other.
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