Bankers say AT&T needs to sell DIRECTV due to the Coronavirus outbreak and accumulating company debt, according to a Fox Business report.
The report does not name the bankers, nor say how many are offering this opinion. It also does not say if the bankers are communicating this position with AT&T, or if AT&T is accepting the verdict that it’s time to unload the nation’s top satellite TV service.
“I don’t know if AT&T will go for it, but they may not have much choice,” Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino said in his report. “AT&T is coming under tremendous shareholder pressure to cut costs…They have a very underperforming asset known as DIRECTV that’s losing subscribers left and right. They have to figure out a way to get it off its balance sheet.”
DIRECTV has lost roughly five million subscribers since AT&T purchased it for $49 billion in 2015. The satcaster’s fortunes have become more bleak since the Coronavirus lockdown with AT&T reporting that DIRECTV and U-verse combined to lose 897,000 subscribers in the first quarter.
Dish, DIRECTV’s longtime satellite rival, would be a likely candidate to buy or merge with the satcaster. Charlie Ergen, Dish’s chairman, said earlier this year that a merger between the two satellite TV services is “inevitable.”
While Dish has also been losing subscribers over the last two years, the merger would give it more than 25 million pay TV subscribers in total. That would give Dish unique leverage in the marketplace to cut programming costs and other expenses.
Dish and DIRECTV tried to merge nearly 20 years ago, but the FCC nixed the deal on grounds that it would be anti-consumer. However, the video category has become more diverse since with the explosion of streaming.
Gasparino said the bankers believe a private equity firm, such as Apollo Global Management, could also play a role in bringing a DIRECTV-Dish deal together.
SCOOP: Under pressure from shareholders to slash costs, bankers say AT&T will soon be more open to a sale of its money-losing @DIRECTV unit. They cite complicated private-equity back deals (like Apollo's @dish proposal) as most likely result. More now @FoxBusiness @TeamCavuto $T
— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) May 20, 2020
The Fox Business correspondent says AT&T, Apollo and Dish refused to comment on his report.
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