Tag Archives: AT&T

AT&T & Time Warner: Prepare For The Worst
March 12, 2018 6:08 am|Comments (0)

When news broke that AT&T (T) was purchasing Time Warner (TWX) in a cash and stock deal valued at $ 107.50 for Time Warner holders I felt very confident that the move would improve AT&T’s profitability and widen its moat. AT&T was (and remains) one of my largest positions, so the news was welcome as I previewed the prospective ecosystem where premium original content and provider flowed seamlessly together permitting AT&T to leverage both as a compelling consumer package.

AT&T has a lucrative history marketing ‘bundle deals’ via DirecTV/U-verse, phone and internet. Adding Time Warner’s content to the mix was like adding another weapon to their arsenal. The move would fortify their position in an era where content is king and the average American residence has nearly 3 TVs per household.

With more and more customers embracing OTT services like Netflix (NFLX) and ditching cable, AT&T recognized the writing on the wall and (potentially) acquired Time Warner to help mitigate the impact and diversify them away from their reliance on legacy telecom services.

Perhaps it was not only adding a weapon to their arsenal but adding a shield to insulate them from the evolving landscape. I credit the management team led by CEO Randall Stephenson for their proactive approach getting ahead of the curve.

Obviously Time Warner’s stock popped immediately on the news while AT&T’s gyrated as investors digested the antitrust risks and whether or not AT&T overpaid.

Let’s take a look at those risks now.

Did AT&T Overpay?

The buyout offer did not come cheap ($ 85B) and some analysts groaned that while Time Warner was a nice asset, it came at too high a cost. But obtaining regulatory approval would be no walk in the park and AT&T knew they were in for protracted litigation. Let’s look at the EPS and Revenue numbers for the last two FYs for Time Warner:

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You will note that on an EPS basis, Time Warner jumped about 9% year over year from $ 5.86 to $ 6.41. Time Warner grew EPS over 20% the year before that. When the $ 107.5 price tag was initially applied to the prior 4 quarters of earnings in October 2016, the P/E ratio stood at approximately 21.

That did look a bit steep.

However, the deal has not closed and when applying today’s earnings to the buyout price, the P/E ratio dips to 16.7. That looks much healthier. You have to tip your hat to AT&T’s management here since they had the prescience to realize that while the initial premium to Warner shareholders seemed lofty, it allowed them to garner unanimous approval from both boards by offering a rich enough premium to Warner holders while not seeming reckless to AT&T holders.

Stephenson and company knew earnings would continue to rise for the content king and before (IF) the deal closes, they will look like geniuses as earning would have grown into the multiple applied at the time of the offer.

Regulatory Risk

And that brings us to the elephant in the room: whether AT&T can out-litigate the DOJ in their pending antitrust case. President Trump has been vocal in his opposition to the buyout and may see it as fulfilling a campaign promise to defeat the deal. But Trump will not have the final word, it will be adjudicated in the courtroom not the political arena, however you would be naïve to believe that those worlds don’t intersect despite our system of checks and balances.

In the interim, AT&T has tried to curry favor with the Trump Administration by announcing bonuses to its employees and lauding the President for the tax bill. Nevertheless, the antitrust team is pushing ahead with bluster and bravado to paint the government as underdogs thwarting corporate strong-arming.

In November of last year I penned a post in the immediate aftermath of DOJ filing suit recommending purchasing shares of Time Warner during the turmoil called, “Time Warner: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose”. In just two days TWX share price plummeted from $ 95 to below $ 87. I quickly logged into my brokerage account to pick up shares of Time Warner in the $ 80’s.

In the post I explained why the volatility generated a perfect arbitrage opportunity, in summary:

This remains mostly true today, however Time Warner’s share price has since rebounded near $ 95 thereby shrinking some of the potential returns if the buyout is approved. While I have contacts within the antitrust division of the DOJ from my Washington days, they are not at liberty to speak about the case and therefore I know only as much as the public announcements trickling out on a daily basis.

And it is my opinion that the deal looks less likely to succeed now than it did 4 months ago when I wrote that post. But that reminds me of a saying by Clive Davis:

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Prepare To Take Action:

During the previous dip, I was on vacation with my wife refilling the gas tank when I checked the market news to find out that Time Warner was selling off. We waited at that pit stop probably longer than she preferred so I could buy shares since I knew that the dip was an overreaction and would not last.

This time, I am planning ahead by placing limit buy orders at $ 85 and below that are good-til-cancelled in the scenario where the DOJ wins and/or impactful news hits the stock causing a knee-jerk reaction. In essence the hypothetical case looks like this:

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In the portion of the chart above circled, you will see a red candlestick where news adversely impacted a stock sending it cascading into free-fall. But you will also notice the rapid rebound where the stock recovered quickly above that price.

The window to pounce and take advantage of the dip was small. That is why I am preparing to maximize the opportunity if it presents itself again. I believe that owning Time Warner shares at $ 85 and below provides a margin of safety if the two parties are forced to go their separate ways.

Time Warner Flying Solo?

Will I be saddled with overvalued shares of Time Warner purchased at $ 85? I doubt it. Here’s why:

Growth for Time Warner shows no signs of abatement as each operating division increased revenue and profits in the latest quarter (yet again). HBO’s subscription revenues increased 11% and its unparalleled show Game of Thrones is not due back until 2019. I expect an even larger increase in the months building up to the premiere.

Additionally, on the heels (pun intended) of Wonder Woman’s success, and in the backdrop of the #metoo movement, I believe Warner Bros. has incentive to continue to produce content with powerful heroines. HBO produced an amazing women focused hit with Big Little Lies and it’s due back for a second season featuring Meryl Streep. HBO made a savvy move by riding the coattails of Reese Witherspoon’s success.

On the cable news front, CNN was rated the #1 network in primetime and total day viewership among young adults and tops in digital news as well (from their 4Q earnings release). Whether you believe the treatment of the Trump Administration is favorable or not, it has been favorable to the bottom line of CNN.

And those are just a few samples of the many reasons why I remain bullish on Time Warner.

No one knows for certain how the trial will shake out, but I am positioning myself for success no matter the outcome.

Disclosure: I am/we are long T, TWX.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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AT&T to launch 5G in U.S. by late 2018
January 4, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – AT&T Inc, the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier, said it would launch fifth-generation (5G) mobile network service in a dozen cities in the United States by late 2018, after international wireless standards for the network were finalised last month.

The 5G technology is expected to provide higher speed and response times than 4G networks used today.

Reporting by Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri

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AT&T and Time Warner Say Proposed Mega Merger Is ‘Pro-Consumer’
November 29, 2017 12:15 am|Comments (0)

AT&T and Time Warner argued on Tuesday that their proposed $ 85.4 billion merger was “pro-competitive” and “pro-consumer,” as they sought to refute U.S. Justice Department allegations that the deal breaks antitrust law.

In a joint court filing, the companies focused on rebutting government efforts to show that AT&T, which owns pay-TV provider DirecTV, would raise rates for rival pay-TV companies to use Time Warner’s movies and TV shows.

They also argued that the government was wrong to worry that the deal would hamper the development of online video.

They did not mention President Donald Trump or the White House. Trump has repeatedly criticized Time Warner’s CNN news unit and announced his opposition to the deal before last year’s presidential election, saying it would concentrate too much power in AT&T’s hands.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who is skeptical of the deal, said last week he was nonetheless worried that the antitrust issue was being used for political reasons. Other lawmakers have expressed similar concerns.

The Justice Department last week sued AT&T to block its planned acquisition of Time Warner.

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In the filing on Tuesday, the companies said that they operate in highly competitive markets which will remain competitive after they close the deal.

They noted that streaming service Netflix has 100 million subscribers globally, while tech firms Apple, Google and Facebook were investing billions of dollars in video. Hulu and Amazon were becoming contenders in video distribution, while others, like social messaging company Snapchat, were starting to enter the market, they added.

“Against this backdrop, the proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner is a pro-competitive, pro-consumer response to an intensely competitive and rapidly changing video marketplace,” the companies said in the filing.

“This transaction presents absolutely no risk of harm to competition or consumers.”

The trial will be heard by Judge Richard Leon at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Leon was nominated to the court by former Republican President George W. Bush and is no stranger to high-profile cases. Leon signed off on the Justice Department’s 2011 deal which allowed Comcast to buy NBC Universal and has heard a number of private antitrust cases. In the 1990s, he worked on House of Representatives panels looking at the Iran-Contra affair and the Whitewater controversy.

Termination date for the deal is April 22, 2018.

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AT&T Will Raise Annual Dividend By 4 Cents
November 9, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

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AT&T Wireless Workers Try To Bring Political Pressure To End Contract Stalemate
October 7, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Negotiations have dragged on since February.

As a contract standoff between AT&T and 21,000 unionized workers in its mobile business drags into a eighth month, the employees are trying to increase political pressure on the carrier.

So far, 255 state and local politicians have sent letters to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson backing the workers, the Communications Workers of America union says. Among the senders are six Democratic senators and numerous members of California’s delegation in the House of Representatives.

“While we are aware of the changes that have taken place in the telecommunications industry, we know that AT&T wireless workers are the driving force behind your most profitable division,” 12 members of the Arizona House of Representatives wrote to Stephenson in one recent letter. “They deserve to share in the company’s success and growth.”

Still, AT&T does not appear moved by the campaign or earlier moves by the mobile workers in 36 states and Washington, D.C., including a protest outside Apple headquarters for the debut of new iPhones last month and a short strike in May that forced many wireless stores to close for a weekend.

Although the workers have concerns about wages, health benefits, and other issues, job security and sales commission rates appear to be at the center of the dispute. To highlight the issue of call center jobs being outsourced to foreign countries, some AT&T workers traveled to the Dominican Republic in early May to meet with their counterparts there who now handle AT&T customer service calls.

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AT&T said on Friday that it has been in touch with the letter writers and plans to continue to bargain with the workers, whose contract expired in February, to reach a “fair” agreement . “We regularly communicate with our stakeholders regarding labor issues and bargaining, and we’ve done so where we’ve received any letters from legislators,” an AT&T spokesman said.

The CWA says AT&T won’t negotiate over job security at call centers and retail stores where many of the employees work. “AT&T has increased its profits by cutting workers’ commissions, refused to bargain over job security even as it cut hundreds of call center jobs this year alone, and increasingly moved to low-wage contractors for its retail and call center operations,” Dennis Trainor, vice president for CWA district 1, said in a statement. “That’s not how America’s largest telecom should be acting.”

AT&T t has a long history of labor peace, though the May strike interrupted a run of more than four years without a walkout. The company says it has reached 32 agreements covering some 145,000 workers since the beginning of 2015. The strike in May, which also included 17,000 workers in AT&T’s telecom business, followed last year’s bitter, seven week strike at Verizon vz .

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