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What Investors Should Know about AT&T’s Vrio IPO

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Unit adopts VRIO symbol

With the help of Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and Morgan Stanley (MS), AT&T (T) is preparing its Latin American digital entertainment unit for an IPO (initial public offering) in the US.

The unit, which primarily consists of the DIRECTV business in Latin America, will be known as Vrio and will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the “VRIO” ticker symbol. AT&T aims to sell a minority interest in Vrio through the IPO, which it could also use to boost its capital or strengthen its balance sheet.

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AT&T to harvest Vrio IPO funds

In a securities filing, Vrio said that the IPO funds would be released to its parent AT&T. The company will use part of the funds to repay debt related to Vrio. AT&T was carrying $126 billion in long-term debt at the end of 2017. The company is also borrowing to finance its proposed acquisition of Time Warner (TWX), which could result in its debt increasing. AT&T considered selling Vrio before it decided to take it public. Operations under Vrio include satellite and cable television services.

AT&T’s Latin American entertainment business generated $1.4 billion in revenue in 4Q17, representing a 10.3% year-over-year increase. The business posted a $135 million profit. Higher service prices and an increase in subscribers drove gains in AT&T’s Latin American entertainment unit. AT&T posted an overall profit of $19 billion in 4Q17, supported by US tax cuts.

Countering digital competition

AT&T is taking its Latin American entertainment unit public at a time when traditional media companies are trying to counter the growing competitive threat from online video providers such as Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN).

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