Sprint, T-Mobile Begin Merger Talks


Sprint has reportedly approached T-Mobile’s parent company to discuss merging U.S. operations.

Sprint Corp. has approached T-Mobile US Inc. to discuss a possible merger. Both sides have reportedly expressed interest in the idea of joining forces.

Discussions have included not only Sprint and T-Mobile, but Softbank Group, which is Sprint’s largest shareholder, and Deutsche Telekom AG, which owns T-Mobile.

Merger talks have been muted for the past year because of rules surrounding a U.S. government radio spectrum auction. The rules required participants to refrain from negotiating deals with each other until April 27.

In discussions with investors, both SoftBank chair Masayoshi Son and Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges said they were open to exploring the idea of consolidation.

Deals like this generally involve banks to handle financial details and reporting. Sprint and T-Mobile haven’t engaged banks to represent them in the deal yet, though financial firms are reportedly pitching their services to both sides.

For the record, representatives for Sprint, SoftBank, T-Mobile, and Deutsche Telekom have declined to comment about merger rumors.

Shares of Deutsche Telekom rose 4.9 percent to 17.53 euros in the Frankfurt stock exchange on news of merger talks, the largest gain for the company since December 2015. Sprint rose 1.5 percent to $7.99, and T-Mobile dropped 0.4 percent to $65.52.

The telecom industry is heavily regulated, and mergers are difficult to thread through the regulatory needle. Sprint tried to acquire T-Mobile in 2014, and that fell through due to regulatory issues. Experts say the proposed merger would serve as a litmus test for the Trump administration’s stance on competition and cooperation in the telecom industry. The administration’s regulators are already evaluating AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner.