Comcast, AT&T kickstart talks

Cos. exchange sensitive financial information, move forward

Nearly three months after Comcast’s unsolicited $44 billion bid for AT&T Broadband, the two sides can start negotiating in earnest.

Comcast announced Friday it has signed a confidentiality agreement with AT&T Broadband’s parent, AT&T Corp., that will facilitate the exchange of sensitive financial information necessary to move negotiations forward.

Comcast initially balked at such an accord since it restricted discussions with third parties that the Philadelphia cabler might want to bring into the deal. At least some of those restrictions still apply.

AT&T has also received an informal proposal regarding its cable unit AT&T Broadband from AOL Time Warner as well as expressions of interest from Walt Disney and others.

Before Comcast’s offer, the telecom giant had originally proposed spinning AT&T Broadband off into a separately traded public company. The current rocky state of financial markets makes a spinoff particularly unlikely just now.

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