AT&T to sell minority stake in DirecTV to buyout firm TPG Capital

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Krystal Hu
·2 min read

By Krystal Hu

(Reuters) - Wireless carrier AT&T Inc said on Thursday it will sell about a third of its stake in satellite TV unit DirecTV to buyout firm TPG Capital in a deal that values the business at $16.25 billion, well below the $68 billion it paid for the asset less than six years ago.

The newly created New DirecTV, which includes DirecTV, AT&T TV and U-verse video services has $6 billion in debt and will be jointly run by AT&T and TPG following the transaction.

Over the years, the satellite TV unit has lost subscribers to popular online streaming options like Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc's Prime Video.

The spinoff will help AT&T consolidate its balance sheet while it continues to invest in core areas including building out 5G, fiber and streaming service HBOMax.

"We certainly didn't expect this outcome when we closed the DirecTV transaction in 2015, but it's the right decision to move the business forward consistent with the current realities of the market and our strategy," AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey said on a call with analysts.

Since becoming CEO last July, Stankey has been reviewing the telecom conglomerate's assets as it tries to cut a debt pile of $147.5 billion. In December, it sold animation streaming service Crunchyroll to Sony in a $1.18 billion deal.

TPG emerged as the preferred bidder for the DirecTV asset in January, as Reuters exclusively reported. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2021.

DirecTV has about 17 million subscribers and lost 617,000 subscribers in the latest quarter. TPG, which will own 30% of the asset, believes it can leverage its expertise to slow down the cord-cutting trend by investing in customer experience and providing premium video content.

In the fourth quarter, AT&T wrote down its premium TV business, which includes DirecTV, by $15.5 billion.

Goldman Sachs was the financial adviser to AT&T, while Credit Suisse and BofA Securities advised TPG.

(Reporting by Krystal Hu in New York; Additional reporting by Niket Nishant and Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Stephen Coates)