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AT&T in advanced talks to merge WarnerMedia with Discovery, deal expected as soon as Monday

Combined images of AT&T CEO John Stankey (L)and WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.

Reuters

AT&T is in advanced talks to merge WarnerMedia with Discovery in a deal that will strengthen the combined company against rival media giants Netflix and Disney, according to people familiar with the matter.

A deal could be announced as soon as Monday, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Talks aren’t final and could still fall apart, said the people.

AT&T and Discovery declined CNBC’s request for comment.

The likely structure of the deal will combine Discovery with all of WarnerMedia, which will become a new publicly traded company co-owned by AT&T and Discovery shareholders, the people said. AT&T is likely to spin out WarnerMedia in a so-called reverse morris trust and merge it with Discovery, said the people.

AT&T shareholders will own the majority of the economics and the voting power, said the people. The exact split between the two companies couldn’t be determined. Discovery has a $16 billion market capitalization and a $30 billion enterprise value. AT&T acquired Time Warner, since renamed to WarnerMedia, for $85 billion in equity value in 2018.

If approved by regulators, the deal effectively reverses AT&T’s years-long plan to combine content and distribution in a vertically integrated company.

Bloomberg News first reported talks between AT&T and Discovery for their content assets.

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