AT&T may spin off CNN. SMART MOVE! Disclosure: I'm a long-time holder of AT&T stock
AT&T (T) could spin off cable news channel CNN as part of concessions to get Trump administration approval of its Time Warner (TWX) acquisition, speculates a Wells Fargo analyst.
AT&T, through a spokesman, declined to comment on any possible CNN spinoff.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson met with President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday. AT&T issued a statement saying the pair did not discuss the telecom giant's proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner. Trump and Stephenson discussed job growth, the phone company's capital spending and other economic topics, AT&T said.
Trump voiced opposition to the $85 billion deal while campaigning, but he has not stated his position publicly since the election.
"While we expect there likely will be concessions (possibly a CNN spinoff, and continued infrastructure investment by AT&T), from a legal standpoint, we note that if denied this deal would be precedent setting given the fact that no vertical merger in the TMT space has been denied," Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche said in a research report.
"While most mergers result in major head count reduction, we do not believe this will be the case with Time Warner/AT&T given there is very little overlap in the core business and expertise."
Trump has feuded with Time Warner's CNN, and on Thursday he retweeted criticism of the cable channel over its political coverage.
Stephenson on Dec. 7 appeared at a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights.
Stephenson said AT&T's purchase of Time Warner would be good for consumers and competition, and would spark innovation. Stephenson also said: "Finally, a word about CNN. We are committed to continuing the editorial independence of CNN. That independence is what makes CNN so popular and valuable, and we will not do anything to change that."
The U.S. Department of Justice will review the AT&T-Time Warner merger. It could also face a review by the Federal Communications Commission, though AT&T has contended that the agency's approval likely will not be required.
AT&T stock slipped 5 cents to 40.96 in the stock market today.
Time Warner stock rose 0.31% to 94.14. The media giant's stock has gained since Trump's election win, but it still trades below AT&T's 107.50-per-share offer, a sign investors aren't sure the deal will be approved.
With the Time Warner deal, AT&T aims to leapfrog rival Verizon Communications (VZ), which has agreed to buy web portal Yahoo (YHOO) and which bought AOL last year.