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Conditional Approval of AT&T-Time Warner Deal given by Netflix CEO


Conditional Approval of AT&T-Time Warner Deal given by Netflix CEO
Provided that his popular media streaming company continued to be treated fairly, he was in favor of AT&T Inc's planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc, said Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings.
Hastings said it was critical that Netflix's content be treated the same as Time Warner's once the deal takes effect while speaking at a technology conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal in Laguna Beach, Calif.
“If it’s open competition, we’d love that," he said.
Neutrality, which holds that Internet service providers should not favor some types of content over others, has been vehemently advocated by Hastings.
“The key thing is net neutrality, which has not been AT&T’s favorite topic," he said.
Reshaping the media landscape, AT&T would gain control over cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted assets, of its deal to take over Time Warner, announcement of which was made on Saturday, gets through. But on concerns that the acquisition would not withstand scrutiny from regulators, shares of both AT&T and Time Warner fell Monday.
As the United States market gets matured, there has been a slowdown in subscription growth in the country for Netflix. Competition from the likes of Hulu and Inc. is also faced by it.
Speculation that Netflix could be among the next acquisition targets have been fueled by the accelerating pace of deals in media world. But the company is set on independence, Hastings signaled.
“I can't tell you how many bankers have called this week," he said. "We don’t take any of the calls," he said.
One the other hand, AT&T Inc shareholders are now tied to a controversial media acquisition that comes with new growth potential but also fresh risks even as such shareholder have profited for most of 2016 from owning a major telecommunications provider with a strong dividend yield. The $85 billion cash-and-stock purchase of Time Warner unveiled over the weekend has been panned so far by AT&T shareholders.
AT&T shares have fallen 6.4 percent, their largest three-day drop since January 2009, since word of the acquisition first leaked on Thursday. On Monday, the shares fell 1.7 percent to close at $36.86.
Outperforming a 5 percent gain for the S&P 500 index, the stock had climbed more than 14 percent this year prior to the news. The stock had returned 20 percent, including dividends.
The deal faces a potentially hostile regulatory review made more uncertain by the upcoming U.S. elections and analysts said that AT&T shares would fluctuate based on the outlook for the deal.
"If you wanted to be invested in a wireless company or you wanted to play wireless as a theme or broadband as a theme, this to some degree takes away from that," said Colby Synesael, an analyst at Cowen & Co.
"There are clearly a lot of people who are selling the stock because this no longer meets the requirements to which they thought they were buying into before today," Synesael said.
Caution was sounded by analysts in relation to the debt that AT&T would take on for the deal.
"Investors are concerned that (the leverage) makes AT&T a much riskier security than it has been in the past. For a stock that has traditionally been viewed as a defensive, it is now much more exposed to both cyclical and secular pressures," said Craig Moffett, analyst at Moffett Nathanson.