Less than two months ago, Paul Singer let AT&T know all of the ways he thought it sucked: It sucked in the boardroom, where it really should have the CEO and chairman roles separated, and also a few Eliott Management representatives. It sucked in terms of strategy, and should both stop buying giant things, and un-buy several of the giant things it had already bought, like DirecTV, for instance. And, thanks in part to those things and other smaller areas of suckage, it sucked in the market, where it was trading for roughly half what it should be.
To combat these slings and arrows, AT&T hired the heavyweight when it comes to activist defense: Goldman Sachs. And Goldman, having reviewed the situation over the last several weeks, has apparently come to a conclusion, which may be thusly paraphrased: “JESUS CHRIST DO YOU REALIZE WHO YOU ARE DEALING WITH???!? DO YOU KNOW WHAT LENGTHS HE’LL GO?!??! DO YOU KNOW HE CARRIED ON A DECADE-LONG DIRTY WAR WITH A FREAKIN’ SOVEREIGN COUNTRY?!!?! MAKE HIM GO AWAY! DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO MAKE HIM GO AWAY!”
AT&T has wisely decided to accept the advice.
Elliott Management said AT&T has agreed to separate the CEO and chairman roles once Stephenson steps down….
AT&T also pledged not to make any more large acquisitions like WarnerMedia or DirecTV. Those deals cost tens of billions of dollars and made AT&T one of the world's most highly leveraged companies. It is actively working to pay down its enormous debt load.
Elliott added that AT&T has committed to "the addition of two new skilled directors…."
AT&T also agreed to meet certain profit targets, including earning $4.50 to $4.80 per share by 2022. That's more than the $3.60 to $3.70 per share AT&T expects to earn next year.
So, no big breakup, yet (let’s see what those skilled directors have to say when they arrive), but pretty much everything else. Paul Singer certainly sounds pleased with himself.
We commend AT&T for the positive steps announced today, which will create substantial and enduring shareholder value at one of America’s greatest companies. We have worked closely and collaboratively with management and the Board on the initiatives announced today. It is clear to us that AT&T is committed to and accountable for creating shareholder value over the near- and long-term.