Unlikely to Budge With FCC on Merger Deal
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
AT&T Inc. expects to get approval of its $80 billion
BellSouth Corp. from the Federal Communications
Commission by the end of the year without having to make
"We've struck the deal about a year ago. We said it will be
closed in this calendar year. It proceeds very well on the
calendar. We have great optimism in what we are doing with
the FCC," Chris Rooney, AT&T senior vice president, told Dow
Jones Newswires Saturday.
"Right now we are still very optimistic to have it finalized
in the fourth quarter," he said on the sidelines of a
gathering of business leaders as part of the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam.
Negotiations between AT&T and the two FCC Democratic
commissioners, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who are
refusing to vote in favor of the deal, are likely to restart
in the next two weeks.
The fact that the company is publicly stating it won't
likely make any further concessions in order to win over
Commissioners Copps and Adelstein could make those
Mr. Rooney's remarks came two days after the U.S. Senate
confirmed Kevin Martin as FCC chairman for a five-year term.
According to two people close to the discussions, the
confirmation makes it more likely that Mr. Martin will take
steps to unrecuse fellow Commissioner Robert McDowell,
obliging him to cast a vote on the approval of the merger.
Thus far, Mr. McDowell has excused himself from the
proceedings on the grounds that his former employer -- the
Competitive Telecommunications Association, or CompTel, a
lobby group -- has publicly commented on the merger.
This has left the commission in deadlock with the two
Democratic commissioners Copps and Adelstein.
Mr. Rooney said he doesn't regard Messrs. Copps and
Adelstein as opponents of the deal.
"I wouldn't say they are opposing the approval. I would say
that they are certainly being very judicious and very
rigorous," Mr. Rooney said.
The two Democrats refused to vote for the merger on concerns
over the dominant position AT&T would have in wired-line,
DSL and wireless markets, although the company has offered a
number of concessions such as cheaper rates to business
Last month when the Department of Justice unconditionally
approved the buyout, Mr. Adelstein said the department "took
a dive on one of the largest mergers in history just to
avoid further court scrutiny."
Asked if he thinks there is room for AT&T to make more
concessions to meet such concerns, Mr. Rooney said: "No.
There is room always for dialogue. When you have dialogue,
you can decide how you want to establish a certain
"It doesn't necessarily mean there is going to be further
concessions; maybe packaging of current concessions or
repacking....We have offered quite a fulsome concession
package in the current situation," he said.
Mr. Rooney said AT&T's acquisition strategy is paying off,
after the company's profit jumped 74% to $2.17 billion in
the third quarter from the same period last year.
"We are very, very positive about synergies we have been
able to bring out of the business. We are positive about the
growth we see across the world," Mr. Rooney said.
AT&T has said it expects its profit to grow at double-digit
rates next year, assuming that its purchase of BellSouth is
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