AT&T issued a strongly worded denial of reports it is considering a sale of the European arm of HBO, which was acquired as part of its broader TimeWarner deal in 2018.
In a statement to Mobile World Live, the operator said an article by Financial Times (FT) is “factually incorrect” and it had informed the newspaper of this before it published.
John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia, noted the organisation doesn’t usually “comment on speculation” but was prompted to reply to the FT article “to set the record straight”
He said the news “is completely baseless and inaccurate. HBO Europe is a valuable asset for our growth plans in Europe”.
The report in question stated AT&T had been exploring a sale of HBO Europe since November 2018 as part of efforts to reduce its $170 billion debt, but that no formal talks had been held with potential buyers.
Sources told FT the operator did not want news of the internal discussions to be made public, fearing it could lead to further defections following the departure of Richard Plepler, chief of HBO for almost three decades, who stepped down in February reportedly due to a culture clash between AT&T and its new media staff.
HBO Europe has about 200 employees, with 10 million subscribers to its streaming service across Europe.
FT did acknowledge one executive had denied any plans to sell, but noted “the contrasting positions highlight the unrest and turmoil that has followed the combination of two companies with very different corporate cultures…AT&T is a much larger organisation that focuses on efficiencies, while WarnerMedia aspires to creative success.”
AT&T raised $5 billion through the sale of unsecured bonds in February, as it stepped up efforts to tackle a huge debt load amassed during a period of acquisitions.
The operator is preparing to launch a streaming service later this year to take on OTT giants including Netflix, employing its WarnerMedia assets and featuring HBO content.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back