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AT&T throws cold water on European acquisitions

Chief Financial Officer John Stephens says "the window of opportunity for owning assets is closing," and says AT&T will focus more on the US, including expanding its GigaPower fiber service.

CNET/Marguerite Reardon

AT&T appears to be shifting its focus back to the US rather than expand into Europe.

That's according to AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens, who was speaking at an investor conference on Wednesday. The event was Webcast.

"We're seeing the window of opportunity in owning assets is closing," Stephens said.

AT&T was reportedly interested in Vodafone, but in January said it didn't intend to make an offer. Still, the company opened the door to it, saying it reserved the right to make an offer at another time. As a result, the speculation of a potential deal continued.

Stephens, however, did weigh in on the pending rumors of Sprint acquiring T-Mobile. While he didn't directly address the two companies, he noted that AT&T was a big believer in consolidation in the industry, but the government disagreed with that belief.

"I would be surprised if they changed their opinion," he said.

The government had previously rejected AT&T's attempt to buy T-Mobile. Government officials have reportedly been cool to the idea of a Sprint-T-Mobile merger as well.

AT&T, meanwhile, is focusing on the home front.

"Things have changed," he said about the opportunities in Europe and business dynamics in the US.

Stephens said AT&T will instead be focusing on its wireless and wireline network upgrade, an initiative it has dubbed Project VIP, while also dealing with the pending merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast, which threatens its own video and home broadband service.

On the wireline side, Stephens said he plans to expand its GigaPower fiber-optic broadband service to additional communities beyond Austin and Dallas, and will be looking at cities and communities with similar rules that would allow for the selective deployment of such services.

On the wireless side, Stephens talked about the opportunities with the acquisition of Leap Wireless, which is expected to close at the end of the month. Leap and its Cricket Wireless prepaid brand will give AT&T a new form of distribution and allow the company to tap into a new segment of consumers, he said.

"We think we can really take advantage of that," Stephens said.