|Bid||29.82 x 1800|
|Ask||29.83 x 1300|
|Day's range||29.22 - 30.82|
|52-week range||26.08 - 39.70|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||0.58|
|PE ratio (TTM)||15.75|
|Forward dividend & yield||2.08 (6.80%)|
|Ex-dividend date||08 Jan 2020|
|1y target est||N/A|
(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp.’s agreement to acquire 5G software maker Affirmed Networks Inc. valued the company at about $1.35 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.Microsoft announced the deal on Thursday without disclosing financial details.Microsoft already serves telecom customers and struck an agreement with AT&T Inc. last year with the aim of moving more the carrier’s network to its platform. Microsoft has been building its cloud computing operations through acquisitions. In 2018, it bought privately held GitHub for $7.5 billion.Affirmed Networks also held talks with Samsung Electronics before its deal with Microsoft came together, one of the people said.Pete Wootton, a spokesman for Microsoft, declined to comment on the price. A representative for Affirmed Networks also declined to comment. Samsung didn’t respond to a request for comment.Microsoft shares fell 4.1% Friday to close at $149.70.The introduction of 5G is just starting, with test projects by carriers such as AT&T generally limited to select big cities. Nationwide U.S. coverage may take years. But tech giants and telecom industry incumbents have been angling for a slice of the market for edge computing and going after big corporate customers. The White House has made 5G a linchpin of its tech policy, particularly as it tries to suppress the global expansion of China’s Huawei Technologies Co.The networking industry is transitioning away from expensive fixed purpose machines that take care of specific parts of the job of managing the flow of data to software that resides in remote data centers. The aim is to make the things cheaper and more flexible.Affirmed Networks helps build virtual networks for telecom customers using 5G technology. It was founded in 2010 and had raised about $240 million in funding, according to Pitchbook Data. It raised financing just last month at a $1.35 billion valuation, people familiar with the matter said.Affirmed Networks said on Thursday that it was replacing its chief executive officer with one of its founders, Anand Krishnamurthy.Affirmed Networks, based in Acton, Massachusetts, is backed by investors including Qualcomm Ventures and Centerview Capital Technology Management, the venture arm of investment bank Centerview Partners, as well as by Lightspeed Management, CRV and Bessemer Venture Partners,(Updates with line on Samsung’s interest in fourth paragraph, adds share price in sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Shareholders of companies such as airlines have a case to make when they argue that the coronavirus pandemic is nobody's fault, and therefore any entity that needs government relief shouldn't be penalized when it seeks public assistance. Why put restrictions on stock buybacks or executive compensation for a publicly traded company seeking aid if small businesses making similar requests don't receive the same restrictions? But in a situation like this requiring significant new legislation and spending, maintaining public trust and support is paramount. If penalizing shareholders and executives is what it takes to ensure political support and keep the country united behind the work of Congress, then it's worth doing, regardless of whether it's fair.A key question is why publicly traded companies alone warrant restrictions. Nobody's clamoring for workers to pledge not to buy a car or smartphone until they pay back whatever assistance they get from the government. There's not even a requirement that they repay. The same goes for small businesses that have been forced to close because of voluntary or state-ordered mitigation efforts in the fight against Covid-19. What makes American Airlines any different?The most common complaint about airlines seeking assistance is that they spent tens of billions of dollars buying back their shares during the past decade. If they hadn't done that, the argument goes, they'd have the money to survive this shock.This specific argument against buybacks has only come about in response to the crisis. For most of the decade, the argument against buybacks was that it was shortchanging investment, and hence, economic growth. I'm not aware of anyone arguing in 2016 that airlines and hotels should hoard cash in preparation for a pandemic rather than buy back their shares.Stockpiling cash also would have been untenable. Activists have spent much of the past decade pushing companies to take more shareholder-friendly actions. Just this month Elliott Management Corp. successfully pressured Twitter to agree to buy back $2 billion of its shares. Companies that hold excess cash quickly find themselves under assault from activist investors demanding that spare cash be returned to shareholders.Perhaps the public just hates stock buybacks. Maybe the tax code should be changed so that buybacks and dividends are treated equally because there doesn't seem to be the same level of outrage over dividends. AT&T pays more than $10 billion a year in dividends without earning the wrath of the public.In all likelihood, the public anger over aiding large companies stems from both the level of buybacks during the past decade, and lingering resentment over taxpayer assistance to Wall Street in the financial crisis. Banks and investors got bailed out while Main Street was left with a jobless recovery and a decade of subdued wage growth. And during the ensuing decade, the public has rightly felt that big companies went right back to business as usual, focusing on shareholders and executive compensation rather than workers and the common good. It's not hard to see why there might be an uneasy sense of déjà vu, with critics of the financial-crisis bailout seeing an opening to exact some revenge for bad corporate behavior.So it's understandable why there are demands that publicly traded companies seeking government relief should have strings attached to that assistance. What we're going through isn't a typical recession. It's a forced cessation of commerce as a way of fighting a lethal virus. Congress is close to wrapping up a third bill to help the economy weather this storm, but in all likelihood it won't be the last. States and local governments are experiencing a large decline in tax revenue and it may turn out that the $2 trillion in the current package is insufficient. Keeping the public engaged and supportive of new rounds of legislative aid is critical. If part of that effort means shortchanging some investors and limiting executive compensation, that's good politics.To get through this fight, everyone's going to have to give up something. Medical workers are accepting great risk to their own health to treat sick patients. Families are having to cancel vacations and postpone weddings. Parents are working at home while taking care of their kids as schools close for weeks or months. Millions of workers are losing their jobs. Fiscal conservatives are having to stomach trillions of dollars in new spending. Progressives have to accept large companies getting government assistance. If that means executive compensation and shareholders of some companies gets restrained for a while to shore up public support for fiscal bills, nobody should shed any tears.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Conor Sen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a portfolio manager for New River Investments in Atlanta and has been a contributor to the Atlantic and Business Insider.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The broadband sector could become a safe haven for investors looking to store cash in the event of a financial crisis.Demand for internet access will be recession-proof, if history is an indicator. A Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis from 2009 to 2010 showed total household spending declined year-over-year while computer information and cable services spending increased. That may be even more the case now amid the coronavirus outbreak, as many Americans are working remotely from home and relying on streaming services like Netflix Inc. for entertainment.“The criticality of broadband has increased since the global financial crisis,” Gregory Williams, an analyst covering cable and satellite services at Cowen, said in a note to clients. It’s “now considered a fairly price inelastic utility-like necessity.”AT&T Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and Altice USA Inc. are among the long list of potential benefactors providing internet-based services across the U.S. Pure-play businesses like Charter are seen best positioned for upside. Shares of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company have fallen just 8% since the beginning of the year, compared to a 20% decline in the S&P 500 Index.Michael McKenzie, managing director of private investment firm Grain Management, said that broadband connections grew 15% from 2008 to 2009. While there’s no guarantee that will happen this time, the sector is likely to fare better than cable or entertainment peers as consumers look to cut discretionary spending.“I think it’s highly unlikely that [broadband connectivity] declines in a recession,” McKenzie said in an interview. It “should be a safe bet” given its historic stability, he said.McKenzie said there may be some “depressed” spending in certain sectors like hospitality. But in general, stocks linked to mobile network operators and tower owners will “tend to benefit from what we see coming out of this crisis.”(Corrects broadband connection growth in fifth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Media companies including AT&T Inc. and ViacomCBS Inc. are pressing the pause button on asset sales worth more than $5 billion because of the global coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter.AT&T’s auction of four regional sports networks, ViacomCBS’s offloading of its publishing arm and closely-held Ion Media Networks Inc.’s $3.5 billion sale process have been held up amid a downturn in financing markets, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private.ViacomCBS was poised to kick off its sale process for the Simon & Schuster publishing division right before the crisis hit the U.S. ViacomCBS Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish announced the plan in early March at an investor conference.The company had expected the business to fetch more than $1.2 billion, Bloomberg News had earlier reported. It’s unclear when ViacomCBS will now launch the Simon & Schuster sales process, the people said, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The company has received more than 25 indications of interest in the asset since Bakish’s announcement, one of the people added. A ViacomCBS representative declined to comment.AT&T has put on hold its sale of regional sports networks, which includes rights to teams such as hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins, basketball’s Houston Rockets and baseball’s Seattle Mariners, the people said. AT&T had been seeking close to $1 billion for the assets. Live sports have taken a major hit as professional leagues have suspended play. An AT&T representative declined to comment.AT&T shares were up about 6% at $29.98 and ViacomCBS shares were down 6.4% at $13.80 at 1:45 p.m. in New York.Ion, which had hired advisers this year to sell itself, is also facing delays, according to people familiar with the matter. The company’s owner, hedge fund Black Diamond Capital Management, had been working on a potential $3.5 billion sales process, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter. Representatives for Ion and Black Diamond couldn’t be reached for comment.Ion has 70 stations in markets including Atlanta, Boston, New York and Chicago that reach more than 100 million homes, according to its website. An ad-based independent broadcaster, it primarily airs reruns of shows with no local news or sports.Broadcaster Gray Television Inc. last week withdrew its offer for Tegna Inc. citing the coronavirus, Bloomberg News reported. A number of other bidders are still circling Tegna. Najafi Cos., a private equity firm, last week said it’s teaming up with faith-based broadcaster Trinity Broadcasting Network to make an offer of $20 a share in cash while Apollo Global Management Inc. and TV producer Byron Allen also remain interested.Some smaller deals in the space are also getting done. FuboTV Inc., backed by 21st Century Fox Inc. and AMC Networks Inc., merged with FaceBank Group Inc., on Monday. FuboTV Chief Executive Officer David Gandler said the company wants to sell shares on the Nasdaq exchange as soon as possible so investors can have access to more “stay at home” stocks besides Netflix Inc. and Roku Inc.Deal activity across all sectors have been hit by the virus-induced market turmoil, with the volume of M&A and investment deals sinking 23% to $383 billion in the U.S. this year compared with the same period in 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.(Updates new information on Simon & Schuster in third paragraph, adds share prices in sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
While AT&T (T) withdraws plans to repurchase stock worth $4 billion due to coronavirus, Verizon (VZ) is collaborating with first responders to provide seamless network connectivity.
AT&T (T) appreciates its employees' efforts, particularly front-line employees who are working hard to serve customers amid the coronavirus crisis.
Effectiveness of COVID-19 mitigation measures, global economic conditions, consumer spending, and supply chain sustainability are likely to impact the demand for AT&T's (T) products and services.
(Bloomberg) -- With coronavirus shutting down movie theaters in the U.S., films that should still be playing on the big screen are dominating most-downloaded lists.Over the weekend, Universal Pictures’ “The Invisible Man” and Walt Disney Co.’s “Onward” were the two most popular movies to buy or rent on FandangoNow, an online service. Both were supposed to be exclusively in theaters for the next several weeks, but those plans were upended when most of the 40,000 U.S. theaters closed due to the outbreak.Studios are hoping to recoup some of the lost business by giving viewers quarantined in their homes an early opportunity to watch new films. That means practically every first-run movie, including “Birds of Prey,” from AT&T Inc.’s Warner Bros. and Sony Corp.’s “Bad Boys for Life,” will be accessible to everyone with a TV, internet connection and $20.“As fans continue to look for new content to watch at home, FandangoNow has experienced its biggest weekend ever,” said Cameron Douglas, who oversees the service. “We expect to see another big week ahead.”But rentals are unlikely to make up for what filmmakers and distributors lose from the shuttered theaters. Some studios opted to delay major films scheduled to premiere in March, April or May, rather than make them available at home early. The box office is still the biggest source of revenue for new films, even though half of ticket sales go to theaters.Universal made three new movies available on demand Friday, including “Invisible Man,” “The Hunt” and “Emma.” All were among the 10 most popular digital downloads on FandangoNow, the service said Monday, without giving exact figures. Fandango is owned by Comcast Corp., which also owns Universal.Some older favorites could see a sales boost from quarantined fans. Disney’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” was the fifth most popular film on FandangoNOW over the weekend. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s “Knives Out,” which premiered in November, was also in the top 10.(Updates with quote from FandangoNow executive in fourth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Television mogul and comedian Byron Allen sharply criticized a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday that sided with Comcast.
(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. is in discussions with banks for a new $5 billion term loan as it seeks alternative short-term financing options following a spike in commercial-paper costs, according to people familiar with the matter.The talks are still in flux and details may change, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The phone and media giant, which has the highest debt load of any non-financial company in the U.S., was initially discussing a $3 billion loan last week.Read more: AT&T said to weigh $3 billion loan to ease short-term debt costsAT&T also canceled its $4 billion accelerated share buyback plan Friday, less than a month after it was announced, as part of a broader effort to boost flexibility while financial markets continue to reel from the spreading coronavirus.The loan is expected to be for less than a year and pricing is being discussed at 150 basis points over the London interbank offered rate, the people said. Pricing on AT&T’s existing five-year revolver has a lower drawn margin of 112.5 basis points over Libor, according to a filing.One-month commercial paper for AT&T was offered Monday at 3%, compared to 1.95% last week, a trader said. That rate is expected to drop, the trader added, following the Federal Reserve’s support of that market, which companies typically use to meet near-term cash needs like payroll.Representatives for Bank of America Corp., which is the agent bank on the new loan, and AT&T declined to comment. AT&T, rated two steps above junk by Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings and four steps higher than high-yield by Fitch Ratings, is one of dozens of companies asking banks for new credit lines to raise liquidity as the commercial paper market remains strained.AT&T’s commercial paper is rated A2/P2. Three-month borrowing costs for such lower quality non-financial issuers have more than doubled to 3.87% as of Thursday from 1.7% two weeks ago, according to Federal Reserve data.Read more: Wall Street is turning away some of America’s safest borrowersFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
AT&T (T) has now decided to cancel this stock buyback program due to the severity of the virus outbreak as it is yet to fathom the impact on its business.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- While the U.S. government and telecommunications industry have been engrossed in the race to 5G, much of the country is still in a slow crawl to regular home internet service. It’s a mistake with economic consequences, and unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic could provide the harshest evidence of that. Americans all around the country are being advised to stay home to slow the spread of the disease. That means adults and children are powering up their computers, laptops and tablets to work and study remotely for the time being, if they can. It’s part of a nationwide social-distancing effort that could go on for weeks or even months, as experts aren’t sure how the health crisis will progress from here. What may be more certain is that the near shutdown of the country’s economy will expose and perhaps exacerbate the digital divide that exists between wealthier cities that have reliable internet access and the many rural towns that don’t. Only 63% of rural Americans have a broadband internet connection at home, compared with 75% of Americans overall, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center early last year. That gap is only a slight improvement on the 16-percentage-point difference that existed 13 years ago. In a separate Pew study in 2018, about a quarter of rural respondents cited access to high-speed internet as a major problem, a far higher proportion than people living in urban areas or suburbs.The digital divide tends to be talked about in terms of being a wealth divide, which it absolutely is. But in rural communities, frustration over internet access is also notably shared across different income and education levels, Pew has found. So even as parts of the country are given no choice but to work from home, many that should have the ability don’t. In a similar vein, suburban kids using iPads to attend digital classes or learn from online tutors won’t have the same interruption to their education as children in rural or less well-off areas, where a greater burden may in turn be placed on parents.There’s also a problem within the problem: Nobody really knows exactly how many rural Americans are without high-speed internet, leaving it to guesswork through surveys. That’s due to a lack of useful coverage maps showing what areas have broadband access. During a panel last July about rural broadband challenges, Eric Koch, a Republican state senator from Indiana, said that when a broadband provider “serves” an area, that might mean one customer or a thousand. There’s also a disagreement over what “access” even means. The Federal Communications Commission measures it in terms of those with minimum internet download speeds of 25 megabits per second and at least 3 megabits per second for uploads. About 21 million Americans couldn’t access such connections as of 2017, the latest data available from the FCC. Faster speeds of 100 Mbps — which is what households using multiple devices really need — were deployed to only 58.6% of the rural population, compared with 88.5% of the U.S. overall.What makes this all the more maddening is that the country’s broadband problem has been willfully overshadowed by the fascination of late with 5G, the faster next generation of wireless networks that is being rolled out by carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. FCC Chairman Aji Pai was giddy in throwing his support behind T-Mobile’s takeover of Sprint Corp. last year, citing the 5G possibilities and asking for weak concessions in return. The deal brings together the two low-cost carriers in an already highly concentrated market that’s trying to regain pricing power over consumers. “Carriers and the FCC are so obsessed with the next thing (5G), they’ve not ensured that everyone who needs access to the network can get it or afford it,” Gigi Sohn, a distinguished fellow with the Georgetown Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a former FCC official, said in an email Thursday.Even with 5G, more densely populated areas are being prioritized, where there are more structures upon which to affix the boxes that serve as mini cellular towers. Delivering 5G to smaller towns is more costly and cumbersome relative to the amount of customers that would be served, which means there’s little incentive to build there.The FCC will say there has been much progress made in closing the digital divide and that lots more work is being done. But it hasn’t been happening nearly quickly enough, and now a pandemic has paralyzed the country. Where you live could determine how you come out on the other side of it. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the business of entertainment and telecommunications, as well as broader deals. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Bankers are having to tell America’s biggest, most credit-worthy companies that they’ll need to wait, pay more, or in extreme cases look elsewhere for new loans to bolster their cash buffers.For many on Wall Street, such a situation would’ve seemed almost unimaginable just a few weeks ago. But with blue-chip corporations tapping existing revolvers at a dizzying clip, alternative funding sources freezing up and capital-markets desks stretched to the limit operationally, banks are suddenly being forced to have some tough conversations.Lenders are basing decisions on a variety of factors, including their strategic relationship with the borrower, how urgently the company needs the cash, their credit quality and how much more they’re willing to pay, according to high-level bankers who asked not to be identified discussing private transactions.“It’s precautionary for companies to ask for more liquidity, but prudent,” said Bradley Rogoff, a credit strategist at Barclays Plc. “There is a probability in two months that some of these companies won’t be able to reopen stores or will have sales at some small fraction of what they normally are.”Banks are continuing to fund revolving credit facilities as requests from companies such as Ford Motor Co. and J.C. Penney Co. to draw them flood in. Revolvers are committed financing, which means that lenders are legally required to provide the cash if they’re asked.But as companies tap their existing revolving credit facilities, they’re also asking for additional funds in the form of new revolvers and term loans to further bolster liquidity. Banks are under no such legal obligation to provide these.Safety NetMany of these investment-grade borrowers haven’t yet been directly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, but want the cash on hand in case credit conditions or the global economy deteriorate further. That’s in contrast to a number of mostly-junk rated companies in industries such as travel, gaming and leisure that have tapped revolvers because of plummeting revenues.An industry group for the banks has repeatedly expressed confidence in their liquidity in recent days. Still, while Moody’s Investors Service said in a report Wednesday that capital levels at the biggest global lenders were sufficient to cope with accelerating cash demands from corporations, they also noted that banks must remain vigilant.“This does not mean that liquidity cannot be pressured at banks when debt markets are freezing up and recession risk is rising in some of the largest economies,” analysts led by Olivier Panis wrote.The surging demand for bank financing is also being driven by spiking rates in the market for commercial-paper, a type of short-term financing that companies use to make payroll or purchase inventory.The turmoil in the vital cog of the financial system’s plumbing prompted the Federal Reserve to intervene on Tuesday. If the market calms, companies may go ahead and repay their revolvers and stop seeking out the new loans, market watchers say.But that will take at least a few more days to unfold, and corporate treasurers might still want to keep the extra cash on hand out of concern funding markets could seize up again.Some companies that are intent on drawing new loans are having to pay up to access the cash, the people familiar said.Bankers said that the so-called drawn pricing -- the cost of actually tapping a new loan commitment, rather than just having access to the facility -- is going up, reflecting the riskier macro backdrop.Investment-grade loan rates are typically very stable. But the past week saw the biggest jump since the financial crisis, one banker said.“We’ve only really seen a similar use of revolvers and new facilities in the 2008-2009 time period,” said Rogoff, the Barclays credit strategist. “Based on how quickly some of the companies are doing this so far, we think it will likely wind up being a greater amount than we saw then.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down more than 2% on Friday, extending the recent rout, as New York state ordered all non-essential workers to stay home to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus. New York and California imposed tough new restrictions, limiting the activity of 60 million people in the two states to curb the spread of the coronavirus and ordering all non-essential workers to stay at home.
AT&T Inc withdrew plans to repurchase $4 billion in common stock as it was unable to predict the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its business, the company said on Friday in a regulatory filing. Shares of AT&T fell 8% in midday trade. AT&T said it planned to continue investing in its network and taking care of its employees.
(Bloomberg) -- The number of dead in Italy surpassed those in China, as the virus showed signs of slowing there. President Donald Trump is asking regulators to expand the use of a malaria drug to treat the disease.The U.S. issued its highest warning to Americans not to travel abroad. The British government denied it plans to confine Londoners to their homes and ban them from leaving the capital.AT&T is in discussions for a $3 billion loan. Ford Motor Co. suspended its dividend and withdrew its earnings guidance. Trump said he would support the U.S. taking equity stakes in companies given bailout money. Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits surged.Key Developments:Cases hit 231,319 worldwide, death toll tops 9,600Lagarde pledges no limits to ECB action, bonds soarEnglish Premier League postponed until April 30Younger adults aren’t as impervious as originally thoughtNew York ordered 75% of a company’s non-essential workers to stay home.The Cannes Film Festival was postponed for at least a monthSubscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here.Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. To see the impact on oil and commodities demand, click here.Johnson’s U.K. Brexit Chief in Isolation With Symptoms (5:33 p.m. NY)The U.K.’s chief negotiator for its trade talks with the European Union, David Frost, is isolating himself after showing symptoms of coronavirus, a British official said. It comes after Michel Barnier, Frost’s EU counterpart, announced on Twitter earlier on Thursday that he had tested positive for the disease. The two men had not had contact since the first round of talks in Brussels two weeks ago.The news is likely to crush any hopes that the negotiations over the two sides’ future trade relationship can make any substantial progress while the global pandemic continues. This week’s round of talks, scheduled for London, had already been put on hold.Tesla Suspends Production at Lone U.S. Plant (5:07 p.m. NY)Tesla will idle production at a northern California facility that is its lone U.S. assembly plant. The decision follows several days of public pressure by local police and city managers about the carmaker continuing to run the factory in spite of a county shelter-in-place order.U.S. Tells Citizens Abroad to Come Home (4:45 p.m. NY)The U.S. Justice Department escalated a global travel alert to its highest level, telling Americans to avoid all international trips. U.S. citizens in other countries should arrange for immediate return home unless they are prepared to stay abroad indefinitely, the agency said in an advisory.“If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe,” the advisory says.CVS Begins Testing (3:28 p.m. NY)CVS Health Corp. opened its first coronavirus testing site, in the parking lot of a pharmacy in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The company warned there will likely be “issues that arise” that will help the program improve as it opens other sites.Texas Takes Broad Anti-Virus Actions (2:51 p.m. NY)Texas Governor Greg Abbott closed all schools and gyms in the state and banned public gatherings of 10 or more people in sweeping new orders to fight the spread of the coronavirus.The state declared its first public health disaster since 1901. Abbott emphasized that the new limits didn’t amount to a shelter-in-place order, but said he holds quarantine powers if he needs to use them later.Schools will remain closed statewide at least through April 3. He also banned visits at nursing and retirement homes and restricted restaurants and bars to take-out or drive-thru service only, consistent with advice from federal health officials.Johnson May Issue More Restrictions (2:23 p.m. NY)U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that some Londoner aren’t doing enough to contain the spread of the coronavirus and that he would take more steps if necessary. He said earlier, however, that London wouldn’t be locked down.He also said Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce actions on Friday to support struggling businesses.“I say to businesses, stand by your employees, stand by your workers, because we will stand by you,” he told reporters.Johnson also said there were no plans to halt London’s sprawling mass transit system.Italy Death Toll Passes China (1:33 p.m. NY)Italy surpassed China as the country with the most coronavirus deaths, as its number of fatalities reached 3,405 and the pandemic’s global spread accelerates. China has reported 3,245 deaths.Italy nation remained in lockdown.Africa Has Undetected Cases, Conditions Challenging (1:12 p.m. NY)While African nations have some undetected cases, it’s probably not a large number, said Matshidiso Moeti, the region’s director at the World Health Organization. It’s difficult to estimate the true case load, she said.Social distancing and proper hand-washing can be a challenge in some parts of Africa, she added. Families might not have room to isolate infected patients, and soap and clean water are limited in some locations, she said. Non-governmental organizations can help to ensure access to clean water, sanitation and soap in Africa.While Africa has a younger population, the region has higher rates of HIV and many countries lack universal access to health treatment, Moeti said. Malnutrition is also a bigger issue than in Asia and Europe. Recently TV and radio have been talking “virtually only about coronavirus,” and authorities need to make sure messages are getting out about other health issues such as cholera, Moeti said.National Guard Sees ‘Tens of Thousands’ Deployed (1:08 p.m. NY)“Tens of thousands” of U.S. National Guard personnel are likely to be deployed in the fight to combat the coronavirus outbreak.About 2,000 members of the reserve force have already been mobilized at the request of governors in 27 states, and the number could double by the weekend, Air Force General Joseph L. Lengyel, head of the National GuardBureau, said at a Pentagon briefing.Carnival Offers Cruise Ships for Response (1:07 p.m. NY)Carnival Corp. is making its cruise ships available for possible virus response efforts, President Donald Trump said Thursday, citing talks with the company’s chairman, Micky Arison.U.S. Should Get Shares in Bailed-Out Companies (12:47 p.m. NY)President Donald Trump said he’d support the U.S. taking an equity stake in companies that receive coronavirus-related aid from taxpayers and prohibiting firms from increasing executive bonuses and stock buy-backs.U.K. Contacts As Many as 15,000 Retired Doctors (12:45 p.m. NY)The U.K. is contacting 15,000 retired and former doctors who have left the profession in the last three years to see if they are willing to help with efforts to fight the pandemic, the General Medical Council said in a statement Thursday. A third of those being contacted are aged 44 and under.The GMC will grant the entire group automatic temporary registration to practice with no reassessment. Those that don’t want to participate can opt out. About 33% were previously general practitioners, while 35% were specialists.Trump Touts Malaria Drug as Potential Treatment (12:26 p.m. NY)The Food and Drug Administration has been told by President Donald Trump to see if it can expand the use of an experimental malaria drug, chloroquine, to treat patients in the middle of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.At a press conference at the White House Thursday, Trump and the head of the FDA gave apparently conflicting comments about the availability of the drug. Trump said chloroquine had been approved and could be given to patients by doctors with a prescription.“It’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned it’s not going to kill anybody,” Trump said.Minutes later, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, said that use of the drug would be in a clinical trial to find out whether or not it works, and if so, what dose would safe and effective.U.S. to Tell Americans Not to Travel Overseas (12:21 p.m. NY)The State Department is preparing to raise its travel alert to Level 4 for the entire world, a move aimed at stopping Americans from going overseas as the Trump administration tries to get control of the coronavirus, according to a person familiar with the matter.Level 4 is the highest advisory in the State Department’s travel alert system and essentially tells Americans not to travel overseas at all. It is normally reserved for countries in a state of war such as Yemen and Somalia.Trump: FDA Approves Malaria Drug for Coronavirus (12:05 p.m.)A drug used for the treatment of malaria will be allowed for treatment of Covid-19, President Donald Trump said Thursday, putting an experimental, largely unproven therapy onto the market in the middle of the U.S.’s coronavirus outbreak.The decision to approve the drug, chloroquine, is a nearly unprecedented step by U.S. drug regulators, who typically conduct careful trials of drugs to determine their safety and effectiveness.“It’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned it’s not going to kill anybody,” Trump said of the drug at a press conference with Food and Drug Commissioner Stephen Hahn at the White House on Thursday.Trump also said that an experimental drug from Gilead Sciences Inc., remdesivir, is also “essentially approved.” Trump didn’t elaborate on what that meant.Blue Apron Extends 1,100% Surge (10:15 a.m. NY)Blue Apron Holdings Inc. shares extended a record four-day surge that has seen the stock jump more than 1,100% this week alone.The meal-kit delivery company opened above $25 a share for the first time since the fall of 2018, as investors flock for safety from the coronavirus-driven rout. The optimism comes as Americans prepare for a potential “shelter-in-place” order that would restrict their ability to leave their homes.NJ Transit Seeks $1.25 Billion in Federal Aid (10 a.m. NY)New Jersey Transit is seeking $1.25 billion of federal aid to make up for a plunge in fare revenue in the wake of the new coronavirus, according to a letter sent by the agency to the state’s congressional delegation.Ridership has dropped 88% since March 9. The financial toll will be “extraordinary and beyond anything experienced in our company’s history,” NJ Transit wrote in a letter seen by Bloomberg News.Ford Halts Dividend, Withdraws Guidance (9:17 a.m. NY)Ford suspended its dividend and withdrew its guidance as the automaker addresses effects of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s offering new-car customers six-month payment relief.White House Mulls 50-Year Bond (8:25 a.m. NY)The Trump administration is revisiting the idea to issue ultra-long bonds as it grapples with how to finance a $1.3 trillion fiscal stimulus plan. President Donald Trump’s advisers are considering, among many options, 50-year and 25-year bonds as they seek financing for additional federal debt with the lowest cost to taxpayers.Separately, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he will propose a massive expansion of unemployment insurance when he meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this morning.Israel Uses Powers to Override Drug Patent (8:01 a.m. NY)Israel approved the import of a generic version of Kaletra, a patent-protected drug that is intended for treatment of HIV, for use in coronavirus cases, the Justice Ministry said. This is the first time since the 1967 patent law came into force that the Attorney General is making use of an article in the law that permits approval of a generic version of a patent-protected drug.India Curbs Incoming Flights (7:51 a.m. NY)India barred all international flights from landing in the country for a week starting March 22, as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The federal government also asked states to enforce work-from-home for all private-sector employees except those working in emergency and essential services.Germany May Authorize Emergency Borrowing Next Week (7:46 a.m. NY)German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is considering taking steps as early next week that would allow the government an unlimited increase in borrowing to help stem fallout from the coronavirus crisis.Merkel’s Cabinet may meet Monday to sign off on the higher borrowing and ask for a special session of the Bundestag to approve the request, said people with direct knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. is in discussions with banks for a new term loan of roughly $3 billion as part of an effort to explore financing options and help the company navigate rising costs in the market for short-term IOUs, according to people familiar with the matter.The talks are still in flux and details may change, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.AT&T’s latest financing discussions come as the company seeks to pay down the highest debt load of any non-financial company in the U.S. The phone and media giant has been selling off parts of its business, chunks of real estate, receivables and preferred stock to help reduce its debt and fund its 5G network expansion, stock buybacks and dividends. The company had about $163 billion of debt at the end of 2019.Read more: AT&T finds a new way to help grind down its debt mountainThe new potential investment-grade term loan is intended as a temporary alternative to issuing commercial paper, said the people. One-month commercial paper for AT&T was offered Thursday at 1.95%, compared to 1.45% a week ago, a trader said.Representatives for Citigroup Inc., which is the agent bank on AT&T’s existing revolvers, and the company declined to comment.Commercial paper is typically used by companies to meet near-term cash needs like payroll, but it has seized up in the last week amid volatility from the spreading coronavirus. AT&T’s commercial paper is rated A2/P2. Three-month borrowing costs for A2/P2 non-financial issuers jumped to 3.23% Wednesday from 1.7% a week earlier, according to Federal Reserve data.Read more: Traders look to Fed move for answers amid commercial-paper chaosRising commercial paper rates have spurred dozens of investment-grade rated companies to tap their revolving credit facilities. Many have also asked banks about new short-term revolvers and term loans, people familiar with the matter said. Companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and PepsiCo Inc., meanwhile, turned to the bond market Tuesday to refinance commercial paper.AT&T is rated two steps above junk by Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings and four steps higher than high-yield by Fitch Ratings. The company has an existing $7.5 billion revolver maturing in 2021 and another $7.5 billion revolver due 2023, neither of which had been drawn as of Dec. 31, 2019.The cost to protect against a default by AT&T has also surged to near the highest level since the financial crisis. Credit-default swaps insuring the company’s debt for five-years have jumped to 216 basis points, up from 124 as recently as Friday, according to ICE Data Services.The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that it would step in to support the commercial paper market. The move may help relieve some of the pressure on companies and pause the rush to tap revolvers and term loans, one of the people said.A number of airline, cruise and travel companies have tapped credit lines or arranged new term loans with banks to provide a financial cushion as they weather the virus. Even high-grade companies not directly affected by Covid-19 have sought new short-term financing amid broader market uncertainty, the people said.Read more: Companies worldwide tap more than $40b of loans to weather virus(Updates sixth paragraph with A2/P2 rating and commercial paper chart.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. are loosening up restrictions on internet plans as they deal with a surge in Americans working from home and pressure from regulators.AT&T lifted some data caps on broadband services, while Comcast said Friday it would make its Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots free for everyone. Comcast, the biggest cable company, also said it was “pausing” its data plan, meaning customers will get unlimited data for no additional charge.Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Democratic minority, said this week she was concerned that homebound consumers could be penalized for heavy internet use during the coronavirus crisis.“It’s not fair for people to be told to go home, and work online or learn online, and find they have to pay a premium,” she said.It’s common for internet providers, including AT&T and Comcast, to charge more for heavy use.“Many of our AT&T internet customers already have unlimited home internet access, and we are waiving internet data overage for the remaining customers,” AT&T said. “Additionally, through Access From AT&T we’ll continue to offer internet data to qualifying limited income households for $10 a month.”Schools, sports leagues, law firms, the federal government and other organizations have all closed or encouraged employees to work from home as the U.S., like other nations, fights a pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. On Wednesday, the leading U.S. infectious-disease official said the testing system in the country is failing, and President Donald Trump’s travel restrictions drew criticism from Europe.Data AllotmentsU.S. carriers sell internet service with data allotments. Those plans come with added fees if customers exceed limits. Unlimited plans typically slow down when use exceeds certain allotments, but don’t impose a penalty.To help students as schools close and classes move online, the FCC also should use its subsidy programs to supply schools with Wi-Fi hot spots so homebound pupils can connect to lessons and teachers, Rosenworcel said in an interview.“We’re about to have a reckoning. We should do something,” Rosenworcel said. “We are going to rely on our networks like never before. We should apply policies that keep everybody connected.”Rosenworcel’s proposal represents a challenge to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, because the Republican controls the agency’s agenda.Agency StatementAn FCC representative said in an emailed message that the agency “has already been coordinating closely with network operators.”Regulators are “encouraged by the feedback we have received both regarding the ability of their networks to handle changes in usage patterns caused by the coronavirus outbreak and their plans to maintain their own operations during the outbreak,” the official said.A spokeswoman for CTIA, a trade group for carriers, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.The telecommuting boom also may has implications for mobile services since that’s how many Americans get online, even at home.Verizon Communications Inc. hasn’t yet seen any decline in network performance as more customers log in to work from their homes, a company spokesman said. The company said Thursday it will increase its capital spending by about $500 million this year to expand network capacity and upgrade to 5G technology.The carriers’ shares gained ground Friday along with the broader market, with Verizon up 5.8%, AT&T up 10% and Comcast up 13%.Verizon is the largest U.S. mobile provider. About half of its wireless customers are on plans with data limits, Matthew Ellis, chief financial officer, told investors in January. Verizon is trying to move customers to pricier unlimited plans as they need more data, Ellis said.Verizon’s base unlimited plan starts at $70 a month and service is automatically slowed at times of network congestion. The company’s highest-priced unlimited plan is $90 a month and imposes speed limits after customers reach a 75-gigabyte allotment.AT&T starts its unlimited plan at $65 a month and also slows the speed during times of heavy traffic. AT&T’s top tier plan starts at $85 a month and will throttle speeds after subscribers exceed 100 gigabytes of date within a month. For reference, Netflix Inc. says an hour of streaming uses about 1 gigabyte of data.About 42 million of 144 million U.S. workers could do their jobs at home in 2018, or just 29% of the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.“We have to bring our nation’s broadband providers together and say we are going to have a collective problem,” Rosenworcel said. “It’s not just going to affect our households and communities, it’s going to affect our economy.”(Earlier versions of the story corrected the companies with data caps and the nature of the service plans.)To contact the reporters on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at email@example.com;Scott Moritz in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at email@example.com, John J. Edwards III, Rob GolumFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.