"After Trump, the boss of AT & T faced another tough opponent: the Elliott fund"

If Randall Stephenson, CEO of the telecom group, managed to save his head, he was nevertheless forced to buy peace by presenting, Monday, a strategic plan that bears the mark of the activist, analyzes Jean-Michel Bezat, economic journalist at the "World".

Time to Reading 2 min.

Subscribers article

AT & T CEO Randall Stephenson at a conference in Washington on September 18th.
AT & T CEO Randall Stephenson at a conference in Washington on September 18th. WIN MCNAMEE / AFP

Losses and profits. It's better not to deal with these two, but the AT & T CEO did not cut it. In 2018, Randall Stephenson had already faced the wrath of Donald Trump, who had done everything to oppose his plan to buy the media giant Time Warner, in the name of defending the sacrosanct principles of competition. More trivially, the US president used antitrust laws to take revenge on Time Warner's CNN channel, which never spared it.

Read the column: AT & T versus US government or merger with Time Warner in lawsuit

After Trump, the "boss" of AT & T faced another tough opponent: Paul Singer and his fund Elliott Management, which had invested 3.2 billion dollars (2.9 billion euros) in September in the number 1 US telecoms. And there, he had to comply with some of the requirements of the most feared activist in the world and bend his financial strategy to make the giant Dallas (Texas) more generous with its shareholders, as at Pernod Ricard, Bayer or Telecom Italia .

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The growing weight of private equity funds worries

Old telecom road

In presenting its quarterly results on Monday, October 28, AT & T unveiled a 2020-2022 strategic plan that bears the mark of Elliott and ratifies the ceasefire. Stephenson has promised an annual revenue growth of 1% to 2%, the total repayment of Time Warner's debt (CNN, HBO, Warner Bros) acquired in 2018, the sale of 5 to 10 billion non-core assets – strategic and the entry of two additional members to the board of directors, including a specialist in cost reduction. Singer rubs his hands: the plane "Will create a sustainable return on investment for shareholders", which will benefit from 75 billion over three years (repurchase of shares and dividends).

A former telecom operator, where he joined in 1982, Stephenson has saved his head for at least a year, but the duties of president and chief executive will be split when he leaves, another success of the fund. On the other hand, Elliott did not obtain the revision of the strategy of the CEO: merger of a telephony operator with its infrastructures and a conglomerate of televisions and cinema with its audio-visual contents.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here