18 August 2000

A convergence of colossi is on the cards if soundings currently under way between British Telecom and AT&T Corporation blossom into full scale merger talks.

Insiders at both companies were emphatic that nothing more than private conversations about a possible marriage have taken place between AT&T chair C Michael Armstrong and BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield. These occurred during discussions about the duo’s joint worldwide phone and data services venture, Concert. It was stressed that no deal is on the table, nor whether the soundings might lead to something more concrete.

Interviewed yesterday, Sir Peter insisted that although AT&T and BT "work quite well" within the ambit of Concert, they had "had no discussions" about a possible union. He refused to comment on whether either company had made an overture to the other, and replied "I am very open-minded" when asked if he would rule out a merger.

There are said to be marked differences in the respective management styles of Armstrong and Sir Peter. The former is seen as forceful and brash and while the latter wears a velvet glove, he is thought unlikely to retire into the background of a merged company.

News source: Wall Street Journal