AT&T, TimeWarner talk on pos­si­ble merger


Se­nior ex­ec­u­tives at AT&T Inc and Time Warner Inc 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.

Ac­quir­ing Time Warner would give AT&T, one of the big­gest providers of pay-TV and of wire­less and home internet ser­vice in the United States, a col­lec­tion of pop­u­lar pro­gram­ing to of­fer to sub­scribers, from HBO to NBA bas­ket­ball to the Car­toon Net­work.

AT&T CEO Ran­dall Stephen­son has been look­ing to add more con­tent and orig­i­nal pro­gram­ing as part of his plan to trans­form the Dal­las­based telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany into a me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment gi­ant.

“There’s a lot that’s at­trac­tive about Time Warner,” me­dia in­dus­try veteran Peter Ch­ernin, who runs an on­line video joint ven­ture with AT&T, said in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day on CNBC. “I think they’re both great com­pa­nies.” He said he didn’t know any­thing about a deal.

Time Warner Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Jeff Bewkes is a will­ing seller if he gets an of­fer he thinks is fair, said one of the peo­ple.

Bewkes and his board re­jected an $85-a-share ap­proach in 2014 from Ru­pert Mur­doch’s 21st Cen­tury Fox Inc, which val­ued Time Warner at more than $75 bil­lion.

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