NEW YORK — AT&T Corp. executives, trying to court potential suitors and partners for the company’s cable-TV business, held meetings Friday with officials of Microsoft Corp. and Walt Disney Co., people familiar with the talks told The Wall Street Journal.
Three weeks after AT&T’s board rejected an unsolicited $40 billion stock bid from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) for AT&T Broadband, Chief Executive C. Michael Armstrong went on the road to explore potential deals or investments and to follow up with companies that have approached AT&T (T) about the unit. He traveled to Redmond, Wash., to discuss Microsoft’s (MSFT) interest in AT&T Broadband, and also met with executives at Walt Disney (DIS) in Los Angeles about possibly investing in or combining some assets with AT&T Broadband, said people with knowledge of the talks.
To be sure, all the discussions are preliminary and may not lead to a deal. But Mr. Armstrong and other AT&T officials are actively talking with companies across the country in an attempt to spark a bidding war among the nation’s big media companies for its nearly 14 million cable TV subscribers. The situation is similar to what happened two years ago, when AT&T made an unsolicited bid to acquire MediaOne Group from Comcast and sparked a frenzy among potential suitors.
Whether AT&T will succeed in its efforts to attract other bidders is unclear. Almost any potential acquirer of AT&T Broadband would encounter its own set of pitfalls. And Comcast, which is the nation’s No. 3 cable firm, isn’t likely to give up without a fight.
But for now, AT&T is looking for competitive offers to Comcast’s takeover bid — which AT&T deemed too cheap and poorly structured. AT&T officials think the company has several other options: Finding investors for a sponsored spinoff of AT&T Broadband; merging its cable business with the cable unit of AOL Time Warner Inc.; striking a deal with another firm, such as Cox Communications Inc.; or proceeding with its original plans for a tracking stock.
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