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Sprint-T-Mobile Merger: Government Reaction 'Would Be Chilly'

By Craig Galbraith
December 16, 2013 - News

**Editor's Note: Please click here for a recap of the biggest channel-impacting mergers in Q3 2013.**

The industry is still buzzing over last week's report that Sprint is considering a $20 billion bid for T-Mobile sometime in 2014. The likelihood of it happening, however, might be slim.

"We suspect the report is a trial balloon designed to gauge initial government reaction, and we expect any reaction would be chilly, given recent pronouncements, particularly with major spectrum auctions on the horizon," noted Stifel Nicolaus analysts Christopher C. King and David Kaut.

Not only that, but regulators have historically been pretty comfortable with four major wireless carriers. They put up roadblocks to a similar merger of AT&T and T-Mobile a couple of years ago. The only thing going for this proposal is that it involves the third- and fourth-largest carriers, and the former was between No. 2 and No. 4. A combined Sprint-T-Mobile would still only boast 53 million postpaid subscribers, compared to Verizon's 95 million and AT&T's 72 million.

The Wall Street Journal said on Friday that Sprint is in the very early stages of considering a T-Mobile bid; it's investigating potential regulatory concerns. Japan's SoftBank, which acquired 70 percent of Sprint earlier this year, is said to be driving the T-Mobile effort.

"If a deal is struck, we believe the DOJ Antitrust Division would likely end up filing a complaint to block a combination of Sprint and T-Mobile, the Nos. 3 and 4 carriers in the already concentrated wireless market," King and Kaut added.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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