AT&T announced Sunday that it will sell its majority stake in Central European Media Enterprises to PPF Group for $1.1 billion in cash, relieving the the telecommunication company of $575 million of its debt.
The Czech Republic private equity group PPF has broadcast operations in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia and produces original content for the networks it operates in those markets. The sale is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020.
The sale is part of the telecom giant’s efforts to pay down debt since its recently completed $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, now called WarnerMedia. As of last quarter, AT&T’s debts stood at $160 billion, with a new debt total expected this week as third quarter earnings will be reported on Monday.
AT&T will continue to sell assets deemed non-essential by the company over the coming months. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that AT&T was considering selling DirecTV as part of their attempts to pay back debts. But WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey later refuted such a sale, saying that the satellite TV provider would be “an important part of what we’re going to be doing going forward.”
This was despite a letter also sent last month by Elliott Management Corporation, which manages $3.2 billion of AT&T’s shares, criticizing its purchase of DirecTV in 2014. “The pay TV ecosystem has been under immense pressure since the deal closed,” the letter read. “Unfortunately, it has become clear that AT&T acquired DirecTV at the absolute peak of the linear TV market.”