AT&T Corp. is making moves to unload its nearly $2 billion stake in
Cablevision Systems Corp., according to a filing with the Securities and
Exchange Commission Monday.
In the filing, AT&T said it had sent a letter April 5 to Cablevision
requesting that 30 million of the 49 million shares of the Bethpage, N.Y.-based
MSO it owns be registered for possible sale.
AT&T acquired the Cablevision stake after it purchased
Tele-Communications Inc. in March 1999. While the latest filing does not mean a
sale of the stake is imminent, it is the next step in making the stock available
'It is definitely an option,' AT&T spokeswoman June Rochford said about a
sale of the Cablevision stake. 'We decided to register because that's always
been our option, and then we'll go from there.'
However, she declined to speculate how AT&T would dispose of the
Cablevision declined to comment.
Just who would buy the stock remains to be seen. It is highly unlikely that
AT&T would attempt to sell the shares on the open market, but selling them
to an individual company or to a group of companies through an investment banker
could be an option.
'It's not in line with people's original expectations, but there are
alternative mechanisms,' SG Cowen Securities Corp. analyst Gary Farber said. He
added that potential buyers include AOL Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp., two
operators with deep pockets and systems adjacent to Cablevision territory.
Any potential buyer of the stock would have to be satisfied with a purely
economic stake -- the Cablevision shares in question have no voting rights.
Other analysts have speculated in the past that AOL Time Warner could emerge
as a possible buyer, but only if it could use the stake as leverage in a future
buyout of Cablevision.
Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan has said in the past that he would not be
interested in buying back the AT&T stake.
Cablevision shares were down $1.60 each Monday to $64.50 per share. AT&T
shares were up 30 cents to $20.80.