AT&T is confident that their proposed 85 million dollar acquisition of Time Warner Inc. will be completed by the end of 2017. CFO John Stephens said to analysts on their earnings call that the deal will be closed by the end of the year, even though the new US President Donald Trump has voiced opposition to this deal.
“We remain confident that the deal will be approved later this year,” Stephens said. However, it is to be noted that the deal is not yet approved by the Department of Justice and President Trump had previously said that he does not agree with the AT&T Time Warner merger plan.
Before the elections, Trump said at a campaign rally that the proposed merger was “a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
On Jan 12, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson met with the then President-elect at the Trump Tower, but reports say that the Time Warner deal was not discussed in the meeting. Stephenson said that Trump “had a very specific agenda” that he needed to cover in the meeting: corporate tax reform and regulatory reform.
“I was impressed,” Stephenson said. “I was meeting with a CEO – it was obvious.” He said he left the Trump confab with a “degree of optimism” that tax reform could actually be pulled off this year. “If we want to get off this 1% to 2% growth plane… we have to have tax reform,” AT&T’s CEO said.
When asked about Trump’s appointment of the Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who is a vocal critic of net neutrality regulations, Stephenson said that he believed that the new Chairman would rationalize the current regulations. Pai is not a fan of the Title II regulations on ISPs under the Open Internet Order of FCC, and Stephenson says that Open Internet Order is a rule that is “suppressive to investment” by telecom providers.
The AT&T CEO said that with the new FCC leadership, the Telco would not change their strategy on the zero-rated services that exclude some content like DirecTV Now from the wireless data caps. “We were quite confident that zero-rating was fine under a Pai chairmanship” or any other FCC regime, he said. The zero-rated data offers are “something our customers are loving. That’s a big deal. It’s proving to be very advantageous in the marketplace for our customers.”