T-Mobile and Sprint’s on-again, off-again merger talks may be nearing a conclusion. Reuters reports that the two companies are now “close” to reaching “tentative terms” on a merger and could announce a deal by the end of October.
The merger would reportedly give T-Mobile’s owner, Deutsche Telekom, a majority stake in the combined company, while Sprint’s owner, SoftBank, would have somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. T-Mobile CEO John Legere would lead the combined company, according to Reuters.
T-Mobile / Sprint’s subscribers would rival AT&T’s and Verizon’s
Those terms are a big flip from what SoftBank had envisioned when it first proposed a merger several years ago. At the time, T-Mobile was struggling, and Sprint was looking at absorbing the then-tinier carrier. In the years since, however, T-Mobile has revitalized its business with aggressive promotions that undercut Verizon and AT&T, and it’s since moved up above Sprint, which is now the carrier desperate for attention.
A deal never happened years ago largely because, under Obama, the FCC was pretty clear that it wouldn’t be approved due to concerns about market consolidation. But with the Trump administration, that’s no longer a worry. It’s pretty much a sure thing that the merger would go through.
Reuters says the combined company would have over 130 million subscribers, barely behind AT&T and Verizon. At the end of last year, AT&T had close to 135 million subscribers and Verizon had close to 146 million.
There’d been some discussion of Sprint potentially ending up with other companies, including Charter or a joint venture between Charter and Comcast. It’s not entirely clear why that fizzled out, but it’s possible Sprint was trying to make negotiations harder for T-Mobile, which always seemed to be Sprint’s most interested suitor.