AT&T, SBC customers won't see immediate impact

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

SBC Communications' recent $16 billion acquisition of AT&T has created the largest telecommunications company in the United States. But Marsha Haskell, SBC's regional director of external affairs in Cape Girardeau, said it might be awhile until customers of the new AT&T Inc. see any changes, including a new name.

"I think it is a great opportunity to merge the strengths of both companies into one," Haskell said. "We're going to be more customer oriented and consumer oriented."

Haskell noted that while the merger has been approved, SBC must make other legal filings before changing its name. Haskell said she couldn't speculate on when the name change would take effect locally. She said she received an e-mail saying that local directors would be notified as soon as the name was changed.

Residential customers of the new AT&T family of companies -- including SBC Yahoo! DSL, Cingular Wireless and SBC | DISH Network satellite broadcast television -- will continue to receive service, pay their bills and request repairs as they have in the past.

Existing customers who wish to add new services or make other changes to their accounts will be notified of any changes when they place those orders, according to AT&T's Web site. The new AT&T name will not begin appearing on customer bills until February or later.

"Customers will continue to make calls the same way they always did and work with folks they're accustomed to working with," Haskell said. "That's not going to change."

Haskell said the strength of both of the companies will allow AT&T Inc. to deliver communications products and services to the consumer faster than either could. But she said she couldn't speculate as to the specifics.

"It's really hard for me to get my arms around the magnitude of the merger," she said, "because Southwestern Bell was five states and now it's nationwide and global. It's really exciting."

The deal was closed Nov. 18, coming in the wake of approval hours earlier by the California Public Utilities Commission.

By absorbing AT&T, San Antonio-based SBC's tentacles will now reach into every major segment of the U.S. communications market, according to a news release from the company.

For AT&T, the merger saves the long-distance telephone company from a potentially bleak future of declining sales and market share in the face of growing competition from new communications companies or alternative technologies.

"We are ready to meet the needs of a new generation of customers in a new era of communications and entertainment," Edward Whitacre Jr., chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc., said in a statement.

The new company will be known as AT&T Inc. and will start trading under the ticker symbol "T" on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. In the interim, it will trade under the existing "SBC" symbol.

The new company has more than 197,000 employees. If ranked today among the 2005 Fortune 500, the combined company would place 12th on the full U.S. list and 24th on the full global list.

AT&T was a parent company of the Bell System, which was divested in 1984. Out of the divestiture was born SBC Communications.

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