When AT&T and T-Mobile announced their decision to merge last year, Sprint was the most vocal and opposed the idea. Well now that Sprint has a deal of their own – Softbank will be buying a 70% majority stake in Sprint – it seems that it’s payback time and AT&T has stepped forward and voiced their opinion on the matter. Granted it was carefully worded, it can be summed up by saying that AT&T thinks that this deal should not be allowed to take place. In a statement released by AT&T’s vice president, Brad Burns:
“Softbank’s acquisition of Sprint and the control it gains over Clearwire will give one of Japan’s largest wireless companies control of significantly more U.S. wireless spectrum than any other company. We expect that fact and others will be fully explored in the regulatory review process. This is one more example of a very dynamic and competitive U.S. wireless marketplace, which is an important fact for U.S. regulators to recognize.”
It’s not a clear opposition and the carrier is not saying no outright, but Chris Ziegler at The Verge has pointed out that there are two things that can happen here. They can either oppose the merger by expressing concern over how a foreign company will own the majority stake in a major US company, or they can use the deal, if successful, as a precedent for their future endeavors.
As some of you guys are aware, the AT&T and T-Mobile merger was not successful last year, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that AT&T might try another high profile merger or acquisition in the future and could use the Softbank-Sprint deal as a precedent to persuade regulators to let it happen. In any case we’re not sure how the regulatory bodies will treat AT&T’s statement but it is definitely something worth thinking about.