AT&T bid for Time Warner reportedly faces legal challenge

A Time Warner shareholder has reportedly filed a lawsuit against TW execs for offering an misleading financial picture to its shareholders.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Richard Collura has filed a putative class action lawsuit with a New York federal judge, alleging Time Warner has only disclosed non-GAAP financial measures in management forecasts, instead of generally accepted accounting principles, which would give a clearer picture of the current state of financial affairs in the business.

It’s a distraction which will not be welcomed by AT&T as the vote to press ahead with the merger will be taking place on February 15. Any complications now could be disastrous, considering the importance AT&T is placing on the deal for its new content-orientated strategy.

New research from Cowen and Company Equity Research has indicated AT&T is losing customers faster than any other US telco, but it doesn’t seem to care that much.

The Cowen and Company team asked postpaid subscribers who had moved provider in the last two years who their previous provider was and AT&T was the top answer. Q3 saw a churn rate of 1.05% which equates to 268,000 customers, though the team has indicated it is instead choosing to focus on retaining its more lucrative customers, focusing more on quality rather than quantity, largely going against trends in the industry.

This may cause concern to some investors who might feel AT&T is ignoring its core business. What is does indicate is AT&T’s new approach to making money. Competitors such as T-Mobile US may have a laser-focus on getting as many postpaid customers as possible, but AT&T would appear to see the market differently, using the business of content as a means of growth.

On a more positive note regarding the TW acquisition, President-elect Donald Trump, seems to be cooling his objections to the merger. Trump had been quite vocal in his criticism of the merger, stating the creation of such a business, with power handed over to a smaller number of executives, is the type of thing his administration is keen to avoid,

Reported comments in Davos this week seem to suggest he’s relaxing his stance. “I have been on the record in the past of saying it’s too big and we have to keep competition,” Trump told Axios. “So, but other than that, I haven’t, you know, I haven’t seen any of the facts, yet. I’m sure that will be presented to me and to the people within government.”

Opinion juggling from the new President is just something we’re going to have to get used to, but it’s an encouraging sign for the AT&T/Time Warner team who are trying their best to battle against the political juggernaut. Only last week, the pair suggested it was going to make use of a creative loophole to avoid having to get approval from the see-sawing FCC. The FCC could be another pain, as it has the ability to veto any deals on the grounds of public interest. Such grounds are open to interpretation, and thus a dangerous game for the AT&T/Time Warner lawyers to play.

It is clear the Time Warner business is a key component of the AT&T strategy moving forwards, a $108 billion cheque shows how keen they are, but the team are being made to work for it. We always knew such a monstrous acquisition was never going to be a simple journey, but it looks like AT&T is going to get its way. And if it doesn’t, the real fun and games will begin.

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