AT&T’s plans to sell off assets in order to buy T-Mobile have stalled, in another sign the merger is in jeopardy.
The Dallas, Texas-based company and Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s parent company, intended to sell off T-Mobile’s assets to Leap Wireless, but the talks have faltered. Other potential buyers include Dish Network, Metro PCS and a slew of foreign companies, but experts believe the sales won’t convince the DoJ that the deal won’t violate federal antitrust standards.
The merger had at one time seemed set in stone, but rivals, including Sprint, complained the merger would create a market that would make competition impossible for anyone else except for top-ranking Verizon.
The DoJ sued in August to block the deal, which prompted AT&T to withdraw its merger application from the Federal Communications Commission, saying it had to concentrate on its court battles. Both the DoJ and AT&T withdrew their trial requests, and appeared headed toward a settlement.
AT&T is expected to decide soon whether to go ahead with the merger or accept its losses and back off. The company has already agreed to pay $3 billion in cash and spectrum rights worth $1 billion to Deutsche Telekom if the deal falls through, which would give T-Mobile some well-needed operating capital to regain customers lost when people thought it was joining with AT&T.
The collapse of the AT&T deal offers T-Mobile a few different options. Deutsche Telekom has indicated it would like to sell its holdings in the U.S. Earlier this year, Sprint — which has been lobbying against the AT&T purchase all year — was reportedly interested in buying out T-Mobile until AT&T announced its plans.
T-Mobile may also opt to remain an independent company. The carrier regularly places high on customer satisfaction surveys, indicating its customers could decide to remain and keep the business profitable.
AT&T has insisted in recent weeks that it plans to continue fighting for the merger, which put it as the top provider in the U.S. However, if it can’t get DoJ backing or sell off the assets it needs to gain the regulator’s approval, AT&T will need to find another way to provide its customers with spectrum needed in the upcoming 4G LTE race with its rivals.
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