AT&T to Seek $14 Billion Loan From Banks for 5G Airwaves
(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. is in early discussions with a group of banks to raise $14 billion to help buy more 5G airwaves, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
It will be structured as a 364-day delayed-draw term loan with commitments due on Jan. 27, the people said, asking not to be named discussing a private transaction. Bank of America Corp. is leading the transaction, they said.
The talks come as competitor T-Mobile US Inc. borrowed $3 billion in the bond market to help fund spectrum purchases, as communications providers are amping up their bids in an expensive battle. The auction -- which still has several more rounds of bidding ahead -- has now surged past $80.8 billion, well above analysts’ estimates of $47 billion.
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Representatives for AT&T and Bank of America declined to comment.
AT&T is seeking the loan from its banking group, rather than T-Mobile’s approach of reaching out to investors. The delayed-draw structure allows the company to wait to tap the facility until the cash is needed, and the one-year structure implies that the loan would likely be refinanced in the bond market.
When AT&T does draw the loan, it may have to pay a spread of 100 basis points over the London interbank offered rate, based on early discussions, the people said. It will also have to pay an upfront fee of five basis points once the transaction closes, as well as a 10 basis point facility fee, the people said.
While AT&T has been deleveraging in the years following its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. in 2018, it still had roughly $159 billion of debt at the end of the third quarter, making it the world’s largest nonfinancial corporate borrower. A large spectrum investment could put its leverage ratio outside raters’ thresholds for a mid BBB rating, but it’s unlikely to result in a downgrade, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Stephen Flynn.
“AT&T has less financial flexibility at the current rating to acquire spectrum for its 5G network build,” S&P Global Ratings said in a Jan. 7 report.
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