Acadiana Business

AT&T, T-Mobile merger dead

by Leslie Turk

AT&T announced Monday that is has ended its bid to acquire T-Mobile USA, a painful breakup that will cost it $4 billion.

AT&T's nine-month battle to acquire T-Mobile ended Monday when the company said, that after a thorough review of its options, it had called off the merger.

It was clear from the beginning that the proposed mega merger would have major regulatory hurdles to clear.

As expected, competitor Sprint immediately voiced opposition to the whopping $39 billion deal, what Bloomberg in March called the biggest acquisition worldwide in more than a year. Sprint claimed it could seriously disrupt wireless competition in the country, and most industry experts agreed close scrutiny was needed to protect consumers from potential price hikes and less choices if the market became overly concentrated.

The proposal would have combined the nation's second largest mobile phone carrier, AT&T, with the fourth largest.

While the proposed deal won support from a number of diverse groups, in the end, the actions by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block the transaction effectively killed it. In a statement, AT&T said that opposition does not change the realities of the U.S. wireless industry - that it is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world, with a mounting need for more spectrum that has not diminished and must be addressed immediately:

The AT&T and T-Mobile USA combination would have offered an interim solution to this spectrum shortage. In the absence of such steps, customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled.

"AT&T will continue to be aggressive in leading the mobile Internet revolution," said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. "Over the past four years we have invested more in our networks than any other U.S. company. As a result, today we deliver best-in-class mobile broadband speeds - connecting smartphones, tablets and emerging devices at a record pace - and we are well under way with our nationwide 4G LTE deployment."

Stephenson said in the near term policymakers should allow the free markets to work so that additional spectrum is available to meet the immediate needs of the U.S. wireless industry, including expeditiously approving AT&T's acquisition of unused Qualcomm spectrum currently pending before the FCC. He said policymakers should also enact legislation to meet the nation's longer-term spectrum needs.

"The mobile Internet is a dynamic industry that can be a critical driver in restoring American economic growth and job creation, but only if companies are allowed to react quickly to customer needs and market forces," Stephenson said.

To reflect the break-up considerations due T-Mobile's German parent company, Deutsche Telekom, AT&T will recognize a pretax accounting charge of $4 billion in the 4th quarter of 2011. Additionally, AT&T will enter a mutually beneficial roaming agreement with Deutsche Telekom.