AT&T Inc. will book $1 billion in first-quarter costs related to the health-care law signed this week by President Barack Obama, the most of any U.S. company so far.
A change in the tax treatment of Medicare subsidies triggered the non-cash expense, and the company will consider changes to the benefits it offers current and retired workers, Dallas-based AT&T said today in a regulatory filing.
AT&T, the biggest U.S. phone company, joins Caterpillar Inc., AK Steel Holding Corp. and 3M Co. in recording non-cash expenses against earnings as a result of the law. Health-care costs may shave as much as $14 billion from U.S. corporate profits, according to an estimate by benefits consulting firm Towers Watson. AT&T employed about 281,000 people as of the end of January.
“Companies like AT&T, that have large employee bases, are going to have higher health-care costs and, therefore, lower earnings unless they can negotiate something or offer less to their employees,” said Chris Larsen, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. in New York, who rates AT&T shares “overweight” and doesn’t own any himself.
Read More: – By Amy Thomson and Ian King, Bloomberg