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Tara Lachapelle

AT&T Is Still Struggling to Justify Its Time Warner Deal

The company is cleaning up its balance sheet and holding things together, but there's lingering doubt that HBO Max was worth it.

Will AT&T be able to keep all its balls in the air? Investors wonder.

Will AT&T be able to keep all its balls in the air? Investors wonder.

Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

AT&T Inc.’s leadership says proudly that it’s delivering on its promises. Investors aren’t sure if they even like those promises.

Fourth-quarter results released Wednesday once again revealed how AT&T is struggling to justify CEO Randall Stephenson’s costly decision to turn a strong wireless company into a riskier communications and entertainment conglomerate. Earnings per share beat analysts’ expectations, thanks to a subsiding price war among the U.S. wireless carriers. But AT&T’s pay-TV operations continued to be a drag, losing 1.2 million subscribers during the period. That's nearly double the amount some analysts figured, based on estimates compiled by Bloomberg, while others predicted losses as high as 1 million. It brought total video disconnections for the year to 4.1 million, far outpacing cord-cutting at rivals such as Comcast Corp.