DoJ could ask AT&T to sell DirecTV or CNN to push Time Warner deal through, sources say

AT&T could have to sell a major asset in order to convince U.S. authorities to sanction its acquisition of Time Warner, casting doubt over the future of the deal.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has requested that the U.S. telco offload either DirecTV, the pay TV operator it acquired two years ago, or Turner Broadcasting, a unit of Time Warner that owns news outlet CNN, amongst other things, according to unnamed sources cited by Reuters.

The newswire noted that AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson has already refuted the suggestion that he offered to sell CNN to smooth the path with the DoJ.

Stephenson is scheduled to speak at an event in New York on Thursday, where he will likely face further questions on the matter, Reuters added.

AT&T agreed to pay US$85.4 billion for Time Warner just over a year ago and has since been working with authorities at home and overseas to secure the required approvals for the deal.

In October it received the green light in Brazil, where regulators imposed conditions on the deal, but stopped short of calling for asset sales. Brazil was the last international market to give consent for the takeover, leaving AT&T with the task of winning over the DoJ.

At the time AT&T said it expected the transaction to close before the end of the year as planned, however earlier this month speculation emerged that the DoJ was considering an antitrust lawsuit against the deal.

The Wall Street Journal claimed that while both sides are discussing terms that could lead to a settlement, they were not close to reaching an agreement.

This week’s latest claims raise further questions over whether the telco will be able to reach a settlement with the DoJ that both parties can live with.