Might Comcast Outbid Sprint for T-Mobile USA?

By Craig Galbraith Comments
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**Editor's Note: Please click here for a recap of the biggest communications mergers in Q1 2014.**

We’ve heard a lot about AT&T’s proposed purchase of DirecTV in the past few days, and Comcast’s bid for Time Warner Cable in the last several weeks. Might there be room for another merger?

No, not Sprint-T-Mobile, which has been widely rumored. America’s third- and fourth-largest wireless operators have reportedly had talks about merging. We’re talking Comcast-T-Mobile. More on that in a bit.

UBS’ John Hodulik, a telecom and cable analyst, believes that regulators will consider AT&T’s bid for DirecTV and Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable in tandem.

“AT&T’s commitment to the video business and rural broadband should demonstrate to regulators that a larger Comcast will be less dominant in both markets than expected previously," Hodulik wrote in an investor note, quoted by Barron’s.

Hodulik says an AT&T purchase of DirecTV would entice Comcast into providing traditional wireless service. How might that be done? How about by buying T-Mobile – something that regulators might see more favorably than if fellow wireless company, Sprint, were to buy it.

“We believe AT&T’s move into mobile video could be the final straw that draws Comcast into the wireless mix," Hodulik wrote. “The company’s current wireless strategy leverages Wi-Fi deployments and its MVNO relationships. While this may be a capital efficient way to put a toe in the water, we believe it is not a long term strategy […] In our opinion, this could eventually lead to the acquisition of T-Mobile – if it is still independent."

Might a bidding war be on the horizon? It might depend on if Comcast has the money, or the will, to take on such an endeavor the same year it buys TWC.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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