New York — AOL Time Warner Inc. is buying out AT&T Corp.'s stake in their cable television, moviemaking and programming partnership for an estimated $8.5 billion to $9 billion. It said it may sell a stake in its cable TV operations in an initial public offering as early as next year.
The deal announced Wednesday involves the decade-old Time Warner Entertainment partnership, which includes most of AOL Time Warner's cable TV systems and its Warner Bros. film studio, its Home Box Office pay-TV service and other programming businesses.
The two sides have been in discussions for some time on unwinding the partnership known as TWE. AOL Time Warner owns 72.4 percent of the partnership, and AT&T owns the rest.
The deal gives AT&T cash and readily saleable assets, while AOL Time Warner avoids having to buy its partner out for cash at a time when it is struggling under a heavy debt.
Under the terms of the deal, AT&T gets $2.1 billion in cash and AOL Time Warner stock valued at $1.5 billion, as well as a 21 percent stake in the Time Warner Cable Inc. business in exchange for its stake in TWE.
While AOL Time Warner didn't affix a value to the cable stake, The Wall Street Journal said it would boost the total value that AT&T is getting to between $8.5 billion to $9 billion.
For its part, AOL Time Warner gets full ownership of Warner Bros. and HBO and stakes in the TV channels Comedy Central, Court TV and The WB Network.
In addition, AT&T and Comcast have agreed to make America Online's high-speed version of its Internet service available on Comcast's cable systems. The stake in the cable business should benefit Comcast Corp., which is buying AT&T's cable TV businesses and would inherit AT&T's stake in TWE. The former Time Warner created the TWE partnership in 1992.
AOL plans to conduct an initial public offering of part of its stake in the Time Warner cable business soon after the restructuring in early 2003.