Sprint and T-Mobile Merger Faces New $15 Billion Bid from Iliad
The possible merger between Sprint and T-Mobile received another potential obstacle Thursday when French telecommunications firm Iliad entered the fray with a $15 billion bid for T-Mobile.
The offer would give Iliad a 56.6 percent stake in T-Mobile at the price of $33 per share. SoftBank Corp., the parent company of Sprint, on the other hand, is reportedly ready to offer up around $32 billion for T-Mobile at $40 a share.
"T-Mobile U.S. has successfully established a disruptive position, which in many ways, is similar to the one Iliad has built in France," Iliad said.
Although Iliad's offer is significantly lower and without the benefits Sprint's network brings since it has no operations in the United States, the company is positive because it won't face the regulatory scrutiny surrounding SoftBank's bid. Antitrust lawmakers at the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have both said they are wary of consolidating the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers.
"SoftBank has been told in many very clear coded words that the Department of Justice and the FCC would probably not approve the acquisition," former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt said.
SoftBank and Sprint, however, argue that they are too far behind Verizon and AT&T to make the leaps consumers need. Verizon handles around 122 million subscribers, AT&T has 116 million subscribers, while Sprint is far behind with 55 million subscribers. T-Mobile comes in last with 50 million.
"I brought the network war and price war [to Japan]. I'd like to bring that to the States," Sprint parent company SoftBank Corp. Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said to industry officials in March. "I would like to provide an alternative to the oligopolistic situation that two-thirds of American households can only get access to one or two providers. I'd like to be a third alternative with 10 times the speed and lower price."
"If you have more customers, you can afford to build a larger network," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told CNET in an interview. "Only then do you have the revenue to justify building in smaller suburbs and rural areas. If you live in an urban core, you will have access to AT&T and Verizon, and you'll also likely have access to T-Mobile and Sprint. But when you go to less populated areas, Sprint and T-Mobile might not be there."
Sprint and T-Mobile are not expected to officially announce a deal until at least September in order to help make their argument more airtight.
Iliad has shaken up the French wireless industry in similar fashion as T-Mobile has in the United States with its cheap plans, but there's still lots of doubt about what it could do for T-Mobile. Iliad cannot offer the infrastructure Sprint can but claims it can offer "synergies" of up to $10 billion that would help boost T-Mobile.
"We are skeptical that T-Mobile and its shareholders, including Deutsche Telekom, will find this bid attractive," Credit Suisse analysts said about the deal.
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