CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s high court ordered the immediate seizure of all DirecTV property on Friday, days after the U.S. firm abandoned its services in the South American nation, citing U.S. sanctions.
The Supreme Court ruling told the nation’s telecommunications agency to seize satellite dishes and office space at transmission centers. It also said DirecTV programming should immediately return to the airwaves, in an order that was not likely to be heeded.
Dallas-based AT&T on Tuesday cut off pay TV services in Venezuela, saying U.S. sanctions prohibit its DirecTV platform from broadcasting channels that it is required to carry by the administration of President Nicolás Maduro.
However, pro-Maduro lawmaker María Alejandra Díaz said the company is legally bound to uphold its programming.
“DirecTV unilaterally and illegally suspended the right to freedom of expression and communication for almost 10 million Venezuelans,” Díaz said outside the court. “It is not true to say that DirecTV could not comply with internal regulations.”
The abrupt move cutting off entertainment, news and sports channels, sparked widespread protests at least two nights in a row, with residents leaning from their windows across the capital of Caracas banging pots and pans.
“I want my DirecTV,” some shouted amid chants against Maduro.
Venezuelans have been ordered to stay home on quarantine since mid-March to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, which officials say has killed at least 10 people and sickened hundreds.
DirecTV on Friday did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. It explained its decision to cut services in a statement on Tuesday.
“Because it is impossible for AT&T’s DIRECTV unit to comply with the legal requirements of both countries, AT&T was forced to close its pay TV operations in Venezuela, a decision that was made by the company’s U.S. leadership team without any involvement or prior knowledge of the DIRECTV Venezuela team,” the statement said.
AT&T has a 44% share of the pay TV market and its departure is likely to hit larger cities and the interior that depend on DirecTV for access to information and entertainment.
AT&T joins a number of other U.S. companies — General Motors, Kellogg Co. and Kimberly-Clark — that have abandoned Venezuela due to shrinking sales, government threats and the risk of U.S. sanctions. Around 700 Venezuelans depended on the unit for employment.
AT&T hasn’t made money from its Venezuelan operations for years due to strict government controls that keep the price of its packages artificially low — a few pennies per month. The situation has become so dire that DirecTV in 2012 stopped importing set-top boxes, choking its growth. In 2015, it wrote down its assets in the country by $1.1 billion.
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5 Oil Stocks That May Not Survive the Current Crisis
What would you think of the long-term prospects of a business that paid you to buy their products? That’s an oversimplification of what occurred to the May futures contract for oil on April 20. The price for that contract sold for a negative price for the first time in history.
The crisis befalling the oil companies at this time can best be described as “only the strongest survive.” There’s just no way the oil companies can possibly handle month after month of rock-bottom oil prices.
The problem is almost comically simple to understand. There is a massively reduced demand for oil as millions of Americans are following mitigation orders ranging from social distancing guidelines to more restrictive shelter in place orders. At the same time, the market is trying to absorb the oversupply of oil that came from Russia and Saudi Arabia.
However, when the year started, things looked like it might be business as usual for oil producers. The U.S. economy was humming along and there was talk that the second half of the year might finally bring the boost to oil prices that many companies badly needed.
However, since the middle of February, the bottom has dropped out of the market in general, and oil prices have been one of the main sectors to feel the impact.
Initially, investors tried to remain optimistic. A month ago, investors thought that the economy might be reopening sooner rather than later. However, the exact timing of the reopening is about as fluid as a barrel of oil. And with it looking more likely that there will be more demand destruction at least through May, there’s very little to prop up the stock of any oil companies.
And that means that, in all likelihood, there will not be room left for some oil companies. We’ve highlighted five oil stocks that have a strong probability of not surviving the chaos surrounding the coronavirus and our nation’s response.
View the “5 Oil Stocks That May Not Survive the Current Crisis”.
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