On yesterday’s AT&T earnings call, CEO Randall Stephenson opened the door to the possibility that the telecom giant would sell off its directories business.
Here is what Stephenson said on yesterday’s earnings call: “That’s one area that we’re going to obviously take a very hard look at, and while I don’t want to give any indication on M&A activity, it’s one of these areas that we’re going to have to decide, do we keep it, do we restructure it, as we move forward.” The quote is from an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In our annual Picks and Predictions Advisory released earlier this month, The Kelsey Report predicted that at least one of the few remaining telecoms owning a directories business would divest it this year.
Here is what we said: “2012 could end with zero publishers of any significant size under telecom ownership. The most likely scenario is that one of the two biggest operators still under telecom control, AT&T or Sensis, will be sold. AT&T seems to be the most likely candidate.”
AT&T Advertising Solutions, the Yellow Pages operation, ended the year down 16.3 percent, to $3.6 billion. BIA/Kelsey estimates the company had print revenues totaling $2.3 billion, down almost 23 percent over 2010. Online revenue growth was just 3.3 percent, to 997 million. Online growth declined throughout 2011, from 6.8 percent growth in Q1 to a 1.2 percent decline in Q4. Since 2006, BIA/Kelsey estimates the Advertising Solutions business has lost about US$2.6 billion in top-line revenues.
AT&T’s directories operation is a two-headed monster that comprises the St. Louis-based Advertising Solutions business, which includes print directories and the sales force, and California-based AT&T Interactive, which operates the YP.com platform and develops digital products. Advertising Solutions is led by Jose Gutierrez, and the interactive business is led by David Krantz. Both units report to Ray Wilkins, who is CEO of AT&T Diversified Businesses.
Wilkins and Forrest Miller, who runs strategy and M&A activity for AT&T Diversified Businesses, have recently announced their retirements from AT&T. These departures will leave the organization short two senior leaders with ties to AT&T’s directories business. Miller led the directories business when it was under the SBC corporate brand.