[Update 10/21: WSJ now reports that the talks are further along than previously reported, adding that a deal could be announced this weekend.]
While Apple was once rumored to have an interest in acquiring Time Warner, Bloomberg now reports that AT&T has recently held discussions with the company to talk about a possible merger. The report cites “people familiar with the matter” and claims that, while the talks at this stage are informal, the two companies have focused on “building relations.”
Time Warner is in the position of looking for a buyer at this point, with chairman and chief executive officer Jeff Bewkes being a willing seller if a fair offer comes along. In 2014, 21st Century Fox made an offer to acquire the company for $85 per share, but Beweks and the Time Warner board declined the offer.
According to today’s report, AT&T, under the leadership of CEO Randall Stephenson, is looking to add more content and original program to its array of services. Last year, AT&T acquired DirecTV for $48.5 billion, but an acquisition of Time Warner would be larger and the company’s largest deal in at least the past 10 years. AT&T has integrated DirecTV into its own package offerings and would likely do the same with Time Warner.
Something worth noting, however, is that AT&T doesn’t have the cash on hand to purchase Time Warner with exclusively cash. Currently, the company has $7.2 billion in cash on hand.
Time Warner has been performing well recently thanks to strong numbers from HBO and Turner. The company has gained about 23 percent so far through 2016, which will certainly help its negotiations as it looks to find an acquirer.
A report earlier this year claimed that Apple considered buying Time Warner last year but nothing ever came of those talks. Apple’s efforts were very preliminary and never entered the stage of negotiations.
One issue to consider with the idea of an AT&T/Time Warner merger is regulatory approval. Given the magnitude of the deal, it would face a stringent investigation by government officials.
At this point, it seems as if an actual deal between Time Warner and AT&T is pretty far down the road, seeing that the two companies are still in the phase of building their relationship. Still, it’s notable that talks are being held, especially considering AT&T’s purchase of DirecTV last year.