AT&T is now negotiating exclusively with equity firm TPG to purchase a minority or majority stake in DIRECTV, according to reports from Reuters and Bloomberg.
Several publications, including The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, previously reported that AT&T was seeking multiple bids to purchase DIRECTV. But the new reports say equity firms Apollo Global and Churchill Capital, which were thought to be interested, are no longer involved in the bidding process.
AT&T wants to sell at least a portion of DIRECTV to eliminate debt and, possibly, turn the satellite TV operations over to another company. DIRECTV has lost roughly six million subscribers since AT&T purchased it in 2015 and subscriber defections are expected to continue.
“The exact price TPG is willing to pay could not be learned, but sources said the deal could value DirecTV at more than $15 billion. Were the negotiations to conclude successfully, a deal could be announced in the coming weeks, added the sources, who requested anonymity because the matter is confidential,” Reuters writes.
Bloomberg’s report echoes that AT&T is now negotiating exclusively with TPG, but sounds a stronger note of caution:
“A potential deal is weeks away, and the talks could still fall apart…and the agreement being discussed is highly structured and would include preferred stock.”
Both news services said AT&T and TPG refused to comment.
TPG, which is headquartered in San Francisco and Fort Worth, Texas, invests in struggling companies, allowing them to continue building their businesses in tough times. However, the satellite TV industry is on the decline so it remains to be seen how TPG’s financing would change how DIRECTV is run. It’s possible that TPG would expect to turn a profit when DIRECTV is ultimately sold to satellite rival Dish, a scenario that Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has called “inevitable.”
Previous news reports have said AT&T is leery of selling DIRECTV to Dish now because federal regulators could nix the deal because it would eliminate competition, particularly in rural areas where residents rely on satellite service due to limited Internet access. A Dish-DIRECTV merger would likely have more success getting approved in a few years when new technologies, such as 5G, are readily available in those areas.
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