AT&T’s John Stankey: “No place is safe” in 2020

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AT&T’s chief operating officer John Stankey said the Dallas-based company is “set up for a good year next year” but will take a hard look at expenses and find ways to cut costs. 

At an investor conference Tuesday morning, Stankey said AT&T will decrease labor costs in the year ahead but didn’t say if that will include layoffs or job freezes. He said every part of the company will be scrutinized.

“No place is safe,” he said. “We are looking across the entire business.”

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Stankey spoke at a tech, media and telecom conference hosted by UBS in New York City. He stepped in for AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson, who was scheduled to speak but was under the weather. Stankey was promoted to chief operating officer in September and is widely considered to be Stephenson’s heir apparent.

AT&T has had a tough few months. It had a public feud with activist investor Elliott Management, which published an open letter criticizing the company’s business strategy and leadership. It has continued to hemorrhage millions of pay-TV customers. And it’s faced skepticism from some analysts, who question whether HBO Max, set to launch in May, can compete with cheaper streaming services like Disney+ that have already debuted.

The company resolved the dispute with Elliott and announced a three-year business plan in October. As part of that resolution, it hired Bill Morrow as special adviser and managing director of process service and cost optimization. Morrow will review the company’s spending and make recommendations.

Stankey said AT&T’s labor costs have declined by about 6% each year. “We are going to step that up a bit,” he said.

One area where AT&T can save is employee benefits, he said. “It’s not about reducing benefits,” he said. “It’s about using the most effective way to serve them.”

He said AT&T will also consider how to “take out layers of cost based on geography we serve and products that we support that maybe have run their course.”…

Source: Dallas News

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