NEW YORK – AT&T ruled out on Wednesday selling CNN to secure the US government’s approval of the telecommunications giant’s proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner.
CNN (Cable News Network), Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies are all part of Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner.
Media outlets, including Britain’s Financial Times and CNBC, had reported that the US Justice Department told AT&T its acquisition of Time Warner would be blocked unless the company agreed to sell either CNN or AT&T’s satellite television operation, DirecTV.
One Justice Department source told CNBC that the idea of shedding CNN to complete the deal originated with AT&T, a contention that drew an immediate denial from the Dallas-based firm.
“I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement issued hours after the company’s chief financial officer revealed that management was no longer confident of concluding the acquisition by year’s end.
“We are in active discussions with the (Justice Department). Those are continuing on. I can’t comment on those discussions,” CFO John Stephens said at an investor conference. “But... I can now say that the timing of the closing of the deal is now uncertain.”
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, said that AT&T and the Justice Department remained far from agreement despite months of talks.
AT&T announced last year that it had reached an accord to purchase Time Warner, whose other properties include HBO and Warner Bros. studios.
Accusing CNN of spreading “fake news,” President Donald Trump has been at odds with the network since the 2016 election campaign, when he spoke out against the proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner.
Shares of AT&T climbed 1.15 percent Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, while Time Warner tumbled 6.51 percent.