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AT&T to sell its operations in Puerto Rico and the United States



AT&T Inc.


T 0.14%

has agreed to sell its Puerto Rican and U.S. businesses Virgin Islands to

Liberty Latin America Ltd.


LILA 2.04%

for $ 1.95 billion in cash, allowing the telecommunications giant to shave off its debt load and get closer to share repurchases.

AT & T's business in Puerto Rico offers mobile, landline and internet connections. It had 1

.1 million wireless subscribers. As part of the agreement, approximately 1,300 AT&T employees will be transferred to Liberty Latin America.

The two companies said they expect the agreement to be terminated within six to nine months. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Wednesday that the companies had agreed to a deal.

Puerto Rico accounts for a small portion of AT & T's domestic operations, but throwing the device will help it work down a large debt load accumulated through $ 80 billion plus the acquisition of Time Warner last year.

The deal signals progress in AT & T's goal to sell non-current assets, something activist investor Elliott Management Corp., which recently disclosed a stake in the company, is also pushing. AT&T has also sold its stake in the Hulu power service.

On Wednesday, AT&T said the deal provides more than $ 11 billion in how much money it will have collected from property sales this year. The company said they expect to return to share repurchases in the fourth quarter, along with debt reduction.

Liberty is already the largest provider of pay-TV and broadband on the island. Cable tycoon

John Malone,

which has a 25.5% voting interest in Liberty Latin America, and the CEO of Liberty Latin America

Balan Nair

has told investors that they want to expand in the region through disciplined mergers and acquisitions.

Liberty plans to fund the cash deal largely by raising debt against the combined Puerto Rican operation, said one person familiar with the matter.

AT&T originally came to Puerto Rico in 2009 after it bought Centennial Communications Corp., a national telecommunications company with a large share of the island's revenue, for under $ 1 billion.

The complexity of the Puerto Rica unit slowed down negotiations. Thousands of residents in the Commonwealth spend several months out the year, for example, on the American mainland, which made it difficult to count subscribers, according to another person familiar with the matter. The island was also severely damaged in 2017 by Hurricane Maria.

Liberty Latin America is a publicly traded telecom and cable provider operating in Chile, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and other Latin American countries. The company spun off last year

Liberty Global

the international cable operator led by Mr. Malone. The Latin America operator currently has a market value of approximately $ 3 billion.

Write to Shalini Ramachandran at shalini.ramachandran@wsj.com and Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com

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