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Announcement:

Moody's says AT&T's ratings unchanged following Justice Department appeal of court ruling on AT&T-Time Warner merger

13 Jul 2018

New York, July 13, 2018 -- Moody's says,the ratings of AT&T Inc. (AT&T, Baa2 stable) are unchanged following the July 12 filing of a Notice of Appeal by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) of the June 12, 2018 judgment in their lawsuit on behalf of the US Government (the Government) to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner Inc. (Time Warner, Baa2 stable).

Judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (DC District Court) ruled in favor of AT&T's merger with Time Warner on June 12, 2018 in a 172 page rebuke of the Government's case. Judge Leon ruled that the Government failed to meet its burden to establish that the proposed merger with Time Warner lessened competition substantially, and allowed for the merger to proceed without any conditions attached. A three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit Court of Appeals) will now consider the DOJ's argument that Judge Leon was incorrect in his judgment.

As the timing on resolution of this continuing litigation could take many months, and possibly result in additional litigation, Moody's believes this DOJ action creates significant uncertainty surrounding AT&T's strategy for its newly acquired Time Warner assets. If a final legal outcome reverses the current DC District Court decision, the company's Time Warner assets, which are held separately in a newly formed subsidiary, could be sold but potentially for less than what AT&T valued the assets for at the merger date. A behavioral or structural remedy is also a possibility that might allow AT&T to maintain some ownership or control of some or all of the Time Warner assets. However, even under a fully positive resolution for AT&T in which the current DC District Court ruling is eventually affirmed, prolonged and persistent litigation by the Government could imperil the company's ability to successfully execute any new strategy for its Time Warner assets, as well as its ability to retain talent within Time Warner operating entities, all of which could be credit negative.

AT&T is weakly positioned for its Baa2 unsecured rating reflecting elevated leverage following its merger with Time Warner. The company's qualitative strengths, including strong competitive position, scale and revenue diversity, are offset by weak financial metrics, anemic growth and continued vulnerability to business disruption across its end markets. AT&T's mammoth balance sheet following it merger with Time Warner could quickly test the depth of the credit markets under difficult market conditions, and its low free cash flow after dividends greatly limits financial flexibility. Moody's will continue to focus on AT&T's capital structure and the company's willingness and ability to reduce leverage in its assessment of rating.

This publication does not announce a credit rating action. For any credit ratings referenced in this publication, please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the most updated credit rating action information and rating history.

Neil Mack, CFA
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

John Diaz
MD - Corporate Finance
Corporate Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

No Related Data.
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