In a head-scratching move, AT&T has halted its plans for an initial public offering (IPO) in Latin America for its DIRECTV subsidiary. It did so just one day before the new stock was to start trading on the NYSE.
Its only public comment was to the point: "AT&T Inc has decided to withdraw its planned initial public offering of shares of Vrio Corp. The company made this decision based on current market conditions."
In March the telco announced that it had filed a registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an IPO for Vrio, which is the holding company for its subsidiary DIRECTV Latin America. It had been hoping to raise at least $650 million. AT&T would have retained 98% voting control of Vrio and 83%-85% of the economic interest in the unit.
The assets included in the registration statement span all the South American markets in which DIRECTV operates, including Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. With 13.6 million video homes in Latin America, DIRECTV is the second largest pay-tv player in the region, only exceeded by América Móvil Claro. Those assets are valued at over $10 billion.
The IPO would have set up the unit for spin-off or sale, which would help AT&T pay down an estimated future debt load of more than $180 billion, stemming from the proposed merger with Time Warner. Now that the future of that deal is in jeopardy, it's possible that AT&T changed its mind given the positive results from the unit in recent quarters.
For AT&T's entertainment group, the fourth quarter saw 139,000 total video net adds in Latin America. DIRECTV Latin America had revenue of $5.57 billion, up 10.9% from the year prior, and net income of $222 million, with strong growth in Mexico wireless and DIRECTV Latin America. In all, it had 13.6 million total subscribers in the region at the end of 2017, which is up 9.3% year-over-year.