AT&T and Time Warner Discussing a Possible Merger

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Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle in Manhattan.
Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Credit: iStock

Senior executives at AT&T and Time Warner have met in recent weeks to discuss various business strategies including a possible merger, according to people familiar with the matter.

The talks, which at this stage are informal, have focused on building relations between the companies rather than establishing the terms of a specific transaction, the people said, asking not to be identified as the deliberations are private. Neither side has yet hired a financial adviser, the people said.

Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes is a willing seller, said one of the people, if he gets an offer that he thinks is fair. Mr. Bewkes and his board rejected an $85-a-share approach in 2014 from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, which valued Time Warner at more than $75 billion.

Shares closed Wednesday at $79.24, valuing the New York-based company at about $62 billion.

AT&T Chairman-CEO Randall Stephenson is looking to add more content and original programming to his Dallas-based telecommunications company, said another person familiar with the matter.

Representatives for AT&T and Time Warner declined to comment.

Time Warner stock has gained about 23% this year, boosted by revenue gains at both its HBO premium channel and Turner unit, whose networks include TNT and TBS. AT&T is up 13% in 2016, valuing the Dallas-based company at about $239 billion.

AT&T has transformed itself over the last decade from a regional phone company to a national telecommunications powerhouse. It now plans to focus on buying businesses to expand into media and entertainment, people familiar with the plans said earlier this month. The company's targets included companies worth $2 billion to $50 billion, the people said.

An acquisition of New York-based Time Warner would eclipse the $48.5 billion that AT&T paid for DirecTV last year and be its biggest deal in at least 10 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

-- Bloomberg News

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