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AT&T and T-Mobile say they will continue to fight for the deal, but AT&T's accountants say it's likely to fail

AT&T, Inc.'s (T) acquire America's fourth largest carrier, Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA, could have been a blockbuster deal.  Had U.S. regulators bought into it, it would have made AT&T the largest wireless carrier in America and granted it a virtual monopoly on GSM (3G) service in the U.S.  The move would have left only three large nationwide carriers in the U.S., with two of them -- AT&T and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications, Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD) -- holding a dominant 80 percent of the market.  Now it looks like acquisition may be dead.

But in regulatory court AT&T struggled to defend the deal, particularly when it came to proving that the deal would create jobs and consumers wouldn't be harmed.  At the end of August the U.S. Department of Justice delivered the first bad news for AT&T -- it was suing to block the merger.  AT&T vowed to fight the U.S. government in court, recruiting expensive antitrust lawyers.  Meanwhile state Attorney Generals began to come out for and against the merger, setting the stage for a grand battle.

That battle may never occur now.  On Tuesday a second U.S. government agency vowed to fight the merger.  U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said he had "serious concerns" about the merger's affect on consumers.  He threatened to hold a second "hearing-like" trial, should AT&T manage to defeat the Justice Department in court.  

While business experts viewed the move as weaker than the DOJ's action, it appears to have been enough to do the trick.  AT&T and Deutsche Telekom have announced their decision to withdraw pending approval application with the FCC, in a move that may signal the end of Ma Bell's acquisition bid.

While both companies claim they're "continuing to pursue the sale", AT&T's accountants have taken a $4B USD pre-tax charge (loss) on its Q4 2011 sheet.  That charge covers the $3B USD in cash and $1B USD in spectrum that AT&T owes Deutsche Telekom if the deal fails.  Under U.S. accounting rules, placing such a charge means that accountants believe the event in question to be the most likely outcome.  In other words, AT&T now has indicated formally that the deal is unlikely to succeed.

AT&T party
AT&T's accountants expect the merger deal to fail.
[Image Source: 
Spencer Platt / Getty Images]

Commenting to Reuters AT&T and T-Mobile promise to throw whatever remaining strength they have behind fighting the DOJ lawsuit, ignoring -- for now -- the FCC complaint.

AT&T and T-Mobile state, "This formal step today is being undertaken by both companies to consolidate their strength and to focus their continuing efforts on obtaining antitrust clearance for the transaction from the Department of Justice." 

Experts are now indicating that even if the AT&T deal fails, T-Mobile will likely try to sell the unit at a discount to Sprint Nextel, Corp. (S).  Alternatively it could opt to try to keep the struggling carrier, or to try to spin it off, perhaps merging it with a smaller profitable carrier like U.S. Cellular (USM).

Sources: Business Wire (Yahoo! Finance), Reuters, WSJ

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By Devenish on 11/24/2011 2:34:13 PM , Rating: 4
T-Mobile should not be sold to any of the big 3 carriers (AT&T, Sprint, & Verizon). T-mobiles licensed frequencies are the objects of concern and are to be managed in the publics interest.

If T-mobile the parent company wants to relive them self of their North American network they should search for another party who does not already have a wireless network in the boarders of the U.S. such as another international carrier or local firm with a desire to enter the wireless market.

RE: Competition
By Myrandex on 11/24/2011 10:20:00 PM , Rating: 2
You don't give reasons for why they shouldn't be sold.

Also if T-Mobile shouldn't have been sold, then I would like to know why was Verizon allowed to purchase AllTel? It personally feels like it was a bias where that went through just fine yet this is getting so much negative backlash.


RE: Competition
By atlmann10 on 11/24/2011 10:37:45 PM , Rating: 3
Alltel wireless (only that division of Alltel as there other divisions were not sold to Verizon) was not anywhere near being the 4th subscriber wise if the USA. So it was not a concern yes they may have had some subscribers but nowhere near as many as T-Mobile does (or did when this started). This deal as a matter of fact may have been way worse for T-Mobile as I know it has lost them a lot of subscribers just because it may have become reality. If I remember right people started dropping and casting doubt as soon as it was announced. I actually use T-Mobile as a provider and get great coverage, great options, and great pricing for now anyway.

RE: Competition
By Samus on 11/25/2011 1:38:48 AM , Rating: 2
The problem with this merger was solely in AT&T approach. It's agenda was not in the public interest, and they is why the government had to involve itself, which is very unusual, but neccessary considering the tactics AT&T was using to hide information.

If AT&T wasn't so damn shady (as a company) this merger makes pure sense. Combine the GSM spectrum, increase reliablilty, decrease infrastructure costs, and put the fire under Verizon to lower its prices to stay competitive. AT&T can't do that now because their customer satisfaction is in the toilet and the network is a joke. A $100 billion joke.

RE: Competition
By One43637 on 11/29/2011 7:48:46 PM , Rating: 1
The reason for AT&T's acquisition is not for T-Mobile's customers, they want T-Mobile's spectrum. AT&T has spectrum of their own to use, but they aren't using the same frequency band nationwide. Look at the 3G bands they use in SF and NYC for example. They use 2 different frequencies for 3G because of congestion. This is why my old T-Mobile branded Galaxy S Vibrant can function as a 3G device in SF.

As a consumer, I am against the merger. It would create a GSM monopoly. GSM is the main reason why I haven't left for Sprint or Verizon.

As someone that does business with AT&T, I can kiss my Q4 goals goodbye and that hurts my bottom line.

RE: Competition
By txdx on 12/3/2011 12:29:33 PM , Rating: 2
Why does everything a company does, HAVE to be done for the public interest? Last I knew, we weren't the socialist republic of the United States?

RE: Competition
By sleepeeg3 on 11/25/2011 2:18:36 AM , Rating: 2
Easy way - let AT&T purchase T-Mobile. Most T-Mobile employees keep their jobs. AT&T gains spectrum. Coverage improves, rates increase.

Hard way - prevent AT&T from purchasing T-Mobile. T-Mobile goes out of business, because Deutsche telecom has already pledged not to spend any more money on T-Mobile's network and T-Mobile has no spectrum to expand. Employees lose their jobs. AT&T buys remainder of business and spectrum. Coverage improves, rates increase.

Either way, it is going to happen.

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