AT&T (NYSE:T) is looking to sell part of its DIRECTV, AT&T Now, and U-Verse pay-TV businesses, according to a report published today by CNBC. The report states that the telecom giant is considering selling between 30% and 49% of these businesses and lists Apollo Management and other private equity firms as potential buyers.
The deal would reportedly value DIRECTV at less than $15 billion after accounting for the unit's debt. Final bids from potential buyers are said to be due next month, according to CNBC's unnamed sources.
AT&T's pay-television businesses have been hurting amid cord-cutting trends, and some institutional investors and analysts have called for the company to divest DIRECTV in order to help pay down debt. Combined subscribers for DIRECTV and U-Verse fell 16% year over year in the third quarter, slipping to roughly 17 million. Meanwhile, third-quarter subscriber numbers for AT&T Now came in at 683,000, plummeting about 40% compared with the prior-year period. The telecom ended September with roughly $149 billion in debt, down by more than $30 billion over the last couple of years.
AT&T acquired DIRECTV for $67 billion with debt in 2015. While the unit has continued to generate strong free cash flow, subscriber losses have accelerated, and there seems to be little chance the business will return to growth. Unloading significant minority stakes in DIRECTV, U-Verse, and AT&T Now could allow the company to take another significant chunk out of its debt load.
It could also put the company in better position to aggressively promote the growth of its HBO Max subscription streaming service, although that platform has also gotten off to an underwhelming start.