Reports: Possible AT&T/Time Warner Merger Valued At $85 Billion

This morning, the world woke to find out that AT&T and Time Warner were getting cozy and maybe thinking about moving in together. Now comes news that talks have heated up and that a nearly $90 billion deal could be in the offing.

This is according to Bloomberg and Reuters, whose sources say the current offer being discussed is for $110 per Time Warner share. That’s $20/share more than the current stock price of the media giant (and $30 more than its share price yesterday). That would put the total value of the merger at around $85-$86 billion.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a deal could be hammered out as soon as this weekend.

The big remaining question is whether the deal would get regulatory approval, especially in light of AT&T’s recent $48 billion acquisition of DirecTV.

One of the many objections to the failed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable (note: a different company from Time Warner Inc., as the latter’s CEO has to occasionally remind people) was that a combined TWC/Comcast would exert a huge amount of leverage over the pay-TV industry because of Comcast’s earlier, heavily criticized acquisition of NBC Universal. The idea of having a pay-TV provider (and the nation’s largest broadband provider) also being one of its largest broadcasters and distributors rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

AT&T and DirecTV avoided that fate by offering services that complemented each other. AT&T’s pay-TV growth has long been limited by its existing landline footprint, so adding DirecTV immediately gave the company access to a national audience. Meanwhile, DirecTV may have more TV customers than Comcast, but those subscribers were not getting broadband from the satellite company. The AT&T deal allowed DirecTV to bundle wired and wireless data.

What happens when you throw in the company that owns HBO, CNN, TNT, TBS — not to mention the vast Warner Bros. movie, TV, comic books, and video game empire? Only time will tell what the FCC and antitrust regulators think of this, or what concessions would have to be made to make this deal palatable.

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