found it was a little harder than anticipated to woo away forlorn sweethearts from the graying, semisenile AT&T phone empire.
AT&T put 427.7 million shares in the soon-to-be-public wireless company up for exchange, but according to a preliminary count, at least 10% of those shares went unswapped as mistreated AT&T investors decided to stand by their holdings.
Final numbers are due out June 4, leaving AT&T Wireless to slip more than 4% to $17.30 and AT&T to drop 38 cents to $20.68 in Tuesday trading.
This vote of semiconfidence from AT&T shareholders is not what AT&T Wireless needs for a smooth entry into public life. AT&T owners will be getting shares of AT&T Wireless this summer, like it or not, as a tax-free dividend. Not only does that add another 1.17 billion shares of dilution, as estimated by
analyst Chris Larsen, but it also drops them into the laps of investors who weren't enamored of AT&T Wireless to begin with. Those stockholders might be sellers once they get their shares, alongside parent AT&T's planned $3 billion stock sale that it hopes to execute at a later date to reduce its debt load. (Prudential has done underwriting for AT&T.)
AT&T Wireless might just be chopped liver.
Perhaps investors were fickle because AT&T Wireless shares offered little change in quality of life by the time Friday's swap deadline rolled around. An initial 7% premium on April 18 (1.176 AWE shares per T share) bled down to a 1% incentive Friday. Maybe AT&T investors felt no need to throw themselves in wireless' arms, given that they'll be getting shares in the virile, young wireless operator without leaving the AT&T fold this summer. And speaking of the rolling AT&T estate, investors have a partial
IPO of the seductive AT&T Broadband cable assets to look forward to before 2001 is out. Not a very compelling set of arguments for changing portfolio lifestyles.
AT&T Wireless already faces pressure because it needs to update its network with pricey buildouts and has an increasing percentage of customers falling into the stingy prepaid category. Now it can grapple with potential investor frigidity as well. Despite a 39% fall in AT&T stock over the past year, investors weren't willing to take a chance on the up-and-coming wireless business. What will many of these nonbelievers do when they get shares of AT&T Wireless stock in the mail?
More than 75% of AT&T Wireless analysts rate the stock at a buy or above, according to
. Meanwhile, 61% of AT&T analysts think T is a hold. Investors weren't budging. The honeymoon is over before it even started at the wireless carrier. Its independent life will be difficult right from the start.