“I was Meeting with a CEO”: AT&T’s Stephenson Impressed by Trump

GettyImages-155392441-compressorTax reform that’s likely to include a sharp reduction in the corporate rate could occur by the end of 2017, the head of one of America’s biggest telecom companies said while revealing details of his recent meeting with Donald Trump.

“I was meeting with a CEO. It was obvious,” AT&T’s Randall Stephenson said of the encounter at Trump Tower in New York on January 12. “The president had a very specific agenda for what he thought was critical, which was tax reform and regulatory reform.”

“I left with a degree of optimism that this could actually be pulled off this year.

Earlier this week, Trump said he wanted to get the corporate tax rate down into the 15-20% range, from 35% currently. With Republicans holding a majority in both houses of Congress (though only a very slim one in the Senate), the passing of a tax reduction is likely.

“I left with a degree of optimism that this could actually be pulled off this year,” said Stephenson, who was speaking at a conference after announcing a 5% increase in fourth-quarter profit, excluding some one-off items.

He said a reduction in the corporate tax rate to between 20% and 25% would prompt AT&T to markedly increase investment levels—a view he said was “not unique” among other business leaders.

CEOs in general are optimistic about Trump’s policy agenda, which also promises to reduce the amount of regulations facing business by at least 75%. Stephenson said the president’s appointment of Ajit Pai to lead the Federal Communications Commission would likely encourage more investment in the industry. Pai is an opponent of heavy regulation, including net neutrality rules that prevent carriers from blocking certain content.

Stephenson’s praise for Trump came even after the president last year said he intended to block AT&T’s proposed $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner. The merger was not discussed at the meeting, AT&T said at the time, though the company’s CFO John Stephens said on yesterday’s call that the firm remains confident the deal will go through later this year.

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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