U.S. government files to block AT&T, T-Mobile deal

Reuters

The U.S. government filed to block AT&T's (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.) $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA because of anti-competition concerns, launching the biggest challenge to a takeover by the Obama administration.

A failed deal would be expensive for AT&T, which plans to fight the government's decision in court. It promised to pay a breakup fee worth an estimated $6 billion, including $3 billion in cash, spectrum and a roaming agreement for T-Mobile USA.

The Justice Department, in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, said eliminating T-Mobile as a competitor would be disastrous for consumers and would raise prices, particularly because the smaller provider offers low prices.

"Unless this merger is blocked, competition and innovation will be reduced, and consumers will suffer," says Sharis Pozen, acting head of the Justice Department's antitrust division.

AT&T will fight the decision in court, said company lawyer Wayne Watts, who added that the Justice Department had given the company no indication that it was contemplating such a move.

The company has argued the deal would let it add capacity and meet demand for high-speed wireless service.

"Clearly AT&T didn't expect this," said Pacific Crest Securities analyst Steve Clement. "It changes things for them with respect to the spectrum flexibility they'd have. They're going to have to be in the market to buy incremental spectrum."

The deal falling through might prompt Sprint Nextel Corp, the smallest of the top three U.S. carriers, to consider buying T-Mobile, a unit of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG, he added.

The deal also would need the approval of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which regulates wireless telecommunications. On Wednesday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he is concerned about the deal's impact on competition.

"It's mixed for Sprint. On the one hand, they were potentially going to lose T-Mobile USA as a competitor at the low end of the market," Clement said. "Now it's going to face a T-Mobile that's in a better position prior to the merger proposal, with extra cash and spectrum and a new roaming agreement with AT&T."

(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Nadia Damouni in New York. Writing by Edwin Chan. Editing by Robert MacMillan)

ArticleTools

Featured Reports

Global Connected Consumer Devices: Key Trends, Opportunities and Market Forecasts 2015 - 2020

An evaluation of Connected Consumer Device ecosystems, market drivers, constraints, and opportunities for value chain constituents
Learn More

 

End-to-End M2M, Seventh Edition
This report includes forecast data for the period 2014 – 2019 with analysis of key drivers, success factors, and industry dynamics.
Learn More

 

The Future of Cloud WAN
The emergence of cloud computing has put new demands on the WAN. Not only do customers demand highly robust and secure WAN connections, but they must also deliver new levels of flexibility and manageability.
Learn More