Did AT&T Just Signal The Top?

The last time Time-Warner (TWX) was involved in a mega merger was January 2000, when AOL acquired the company for $182 billion in what was the mega deal of the last tech bubble, creating a $350 billion behemoth... which nearly dragged down both companies a few years later. The timing could not have been more perfect as it marked the tech bubble top...

Will it happen again?

AT&T Inc. (T), in addition to announcing its $85.4 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc., reported its third-quarter financial results Saturday, which provided a view into the reasons why the company is seeking to diversify away from the U.S. wireless business.

In the U.S., AT&T lost 268,000 mainstream wireless phone customers. Phone additions are considered important because they provide more service revenue than tablets, and customers with postpaid phone accounts tend to stay longer. Including other devices, AT&T added a total of 212,000 mainstream wireless customers.

In all, AT&T's total wireless revenues dipped 0.7%, to $18.2 billion, which the company blamed on decreases in service and equipment revenue.

The results came three days early as AT&T also announced on Saturday its agreement to buy Time Warner Inc. The cash-and-stock deal values Time Warner -- owner of CNN, TNT, HBO and the Warner Bros. film and TV studio, among other things -- at $107.50 a share and transforms AT&T into a media giant.

The Time Warner deal is seen helping AT&T potentially find new areas of growth as its core wireless business has become saturated and its share of the mobile market leaves little room for acquisitions. In the competitive consumer wireless market, AT&T has been focused on retaining its most profitable customers and shying away from promotional offers to grab market share.

So, once again it appears 'mega-mergers' are the last best hope of management to distract an anxious investor base as organic growth begins to decline.

Disclosure: None.

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