AT&T CEO: We’re Open to European Acquisitions

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson today affirmed his company’s interest in investing in Europe at “good value,” saying the regulatory environment precluded the company from making significant deals in the U.S. “We have pretty much written off that any kind of large-scale deal in our sector is going to get done,” he told an investor conference. Stephenson’s remarks came on the heels of Vodafone Group’s sale of its Verizon Wireless asset, a move that could open up the European market for AT&T. Stephenson touted the company’s stable balance sheet and Verizon Communications’ “eye-opening” ability to sell $49 billion in bonds earlier this month

AT&T sees room to move the European market in the direction of the U.S. by investing in networks, shifting pricing strategies to encourage mobile data use and collecting more revenue as use increases. At the same time, heavy competition, declining revenue and the regulatory environment pose risks.

The European mobile industry feels consolidation is overdue. While AT&T remains interested, Mr. Stephenson said Tuesday that public-policy issues, especially in standardizing spectrum regulation, are holding the region back. Unlike the U.S., where spectrum licenses have an indefinite life, Mr. Stephenson said licenses in Europe might have a 10- to 12-year time span.  “It slows things down,” he said. “You think differently about investing in that spectrum.”