Apple Reportedly Eyed Time Warner

Media & Advertising Dow Jones Newswires

The Apple Inc. store is seen on the day of the new iPhone 7 smartphone launch in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The Apple Inc. store is seen on the day of the new iPhone 7 smartphone launch in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (Copyright Reuters 2016)

Apple (AAPL) a few months ago approached Time Warner (TWX) about pursuing a combination, but the discussions didn't progress beyond a preliminary stage and none are currently under way, people familiar with the matter said Friday.

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AT&T is now in advanced talks to purchase Time Warner, The Wall Street Journal has reported, and a deal could come together within days. From Apple's end, executives under Chief Executive Tim Cook were involved in the earlier talks, and now Apple is monitoring the current situation, one of the people said.

The talks for Time Warner suggest there is a greater merger dance occurring in the media industry as conglomerates, telecom companies and tech giants try to stake their claim on the future. A host of other contenders could jump into the fray for Time Warner and scuttle the planned deal, media executives and analysts say.

Time Warner is viewed as perhaps the most attractive stand-alone media asset, given its premium content brands -- which include HBO, CNN and Warner Bros.--and the fact it doesn't have a controlling shareholder. The company had $28 billion in revenue last year and had a market capitalization of $68 billion before the Journal reported on the deal. Time Warner shares were up 7% in afternoon trading.

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"There has been along list of companies speculated to be interested in acquiring (Time Warner), starting with the almighty Apple. So if ATT wants this deal, it is in their best interest to move as fast as possible," wrote Todd Juenger of Bernstein Research in a research note.

At the same time, a Time Warner transaction could help trigger more media deal-making as industry bosses try to drum up strategies to position them for a world where streaming media is on the rise and pay TV cord-cutting is taking a financial toll

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Write to Shalini Ramachandran at shalini.ramachandran@wsj.com, Keach Hagey at keach.hagey@wsj.com and Dana Mattioli at dana.mattioli@wsj.com