AT&T, BT discuss merging units

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Telecommunications giants AT&T Corp. and British Telecommunications PLC (BT) are in talks about possibly merging the two companies' business-services units, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

AT&T and BT have revived talks in recent weeks on how to address disappointing profits in their Concert Communications Co. joint venture aimed at corporate customers, the paper said, citing "people familiar with the situation." Among the options being considered are dismantling Concert, handing over control to AT&T, or an outright merger of the two companies' business-services units, The Journal said.

"We announced back in November that we are in talks with AT&T, looking to strengthen the Concert alliance," said BT spokesman Simon Gordon. "We're not ruling anything in or out in terms of what services or areas might be looked at."

Asked whether a merger of units is under consideration, he would only say, "We never say never."

Concert, established in July 1998, has been the subject of much speculation in recent months, after both AT&T and BT have announced major corporate restructuring plans. Last month the Financial Times reported that Concert's failure to meet European sales plans troubled its executives. Its problems were blamed, by some, on lack of support by BT's partially owned units outside the U.K.

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