Sprint's Dangerous Assumptions
John Zhang • 47 Comments
John Zhang • 47 Comments
Feb. 6, 2014, 11:16 AM
- After rallying yesterday on a report Sprint (S -6.1%) is close to lining up $45B in financing for a T-Mobile USA (TMUS -5.4%) bid, Sprint and T-Mobile are selling off following a Bloomberg report stating FCC/DOJ regulators have "resisted the concept" of a merger between the carriers in preliminary talks with SoftBank's (SFTBF) Masayoshi Son, and that Son and Sprint's Dan Hesse now "plan to decide in the next few weeks whether to move ahead on a bid."
- Bloomberg adds Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY) has asked Son to "gauge regulatory sentiment" towards a merger, and that Son and DT's perception of regulatory feedback will "determine their next steps."
- In addition, SoftBank and DT are reportedly at odds over the breakup fee for any deal - SoftBank wants a small one on account of regulatory risks, DT feels differently.
- FCC and DOJ officials have already suggested they're skeptical about backing a merger between the #3 and #4 U.S. mobile carriers. While Sprint might argue the carriers need to merge to effectively compete against Verizon/AT&T, T-Mobile's recent share gains bring that claim into question.
- More on Sprint/T-Mobile
Feb. 5, 2014, 2:20 PM
- Sources tell dealReporter Sprint (S +6.5%) is close to obtaining $45B in financing for a T-Mobile USA (TMUS +3.9%) bid. Both Sprint and T-Mobile shares have spiked higher in response.
- The WSJ previously reported Sprint has received proposals from at least two banks for a bid that would value T-Mobile's equity at $31B. In addition to the financing needed to acquire Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGY) 67% T-Mobile equity stake, Sprint and parent SoftBank (SFTBF) will need funds to cover (and potentially refinance) T-Mobile's $20B debt load.
- The report comes as DOJ/FCC officials continue taking a skeptical view of a deal that stands to reduce the number of nationwide U.S. carriers to three.
Feb. 4, 2014, 3:57 AM
- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler yesterday expressed skepticism about the possibility of Sprint (S) acquiring T-Mobile US (TMUS), Reuters reports. Wheeler made his feelings known during a meeting with Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son and CEO Dan Hesse.
- Wheeler echoed comments that antitrust chief William Baer made last week, when the latter gave long odds that mergers between any two of the four largest cellular carriers would receive regulatory authorization.
- However, Wheeler also said he would keep an open mind about the prospective deal.
- Sprint argues that it needs to merge with T-Mobile US so that it can challenge the dominance of Verizon and AT&T.
Jan. 28, 2014, 6:44 PM
- The WSJ reports Sprint (S) CEO Dan Hesse and SoftBank (SFTBF, SFTBY) chief Masayoshi Son met DOJ officials this month regarding a possible T-Mobile USA (TMUS) bid, and were told a deal would be viewed "with skepticism."
- The paper adds SoftBank and T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY, DTEGF) have been talking about a deal, but are still "working through remaining issues" such as the size of the deal's breakup fee (Son reportedly is pushing for a small one) and whether Sprint or T-Mobile's brand would be retained.
- Both the DOJ and FCC have been expected to show intense scrutiny of a merger that would lower the number of nationwide U.S. carriers to three, and feature a carrier that has been upending the U.S. mobile industry with new promotions and pricing schemes.
- TMUS -1.7% AH.
- More on Sprint/T-Mobile
Jan. 27, 2014, 1:48 PM
- During a Bloomberg TV interview, outspoken T-Mobile USA (TMUS -0.1%) CEO John Legere provided fresh hints his firm is open to merging with Sprint (S +6.5%).
- Legere: "We all need better scale and capability ... The question starts to be: How do you take the maverick and supercharge it? We either need more spectrum and capability and a lot more investment, or we need consolidation."
- Sprint and parent SoftBank (SFTBF, SFTBY) have been widely reported to be lining up financing to acquire Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGF, DTEGY) 67% T-Mobile USA stake. But regulators might object to a tie-up, particularly given T-Mobile's efforts to shake up the U.S. mobile industry via aggressive/novel pricing schemes.
- Separately, Sprint announces it has expanded its 4G LTE network to cover 40 more markets, including Milwaukee and Salt Lake City. Sprint, which is trying to neutralize Verizon and AT&T's LTE coverage leads, now offers LTE in 340 markets.
Jan. 19, 2014, 1:21 AM
- SoftBank (SFTBF) and Deutsche Telekom (DTEGF) are attempting to resolve obstacles to Sprint's (S) possible acquisition of the German carrier's 67% holding in T-Mobile USA (TMUS), Bloomberg reports.
- Such obstacles include much cash and stock SoftBank will pay - Deutsche Telekom wants the whole deal to be in cash - how Sprint and T-Mobile would be integrated, and the size of a break-up fee.
- Softbank is looking to borrow $20B to finance the deal, which could value T-Mobile at $31B vs its market capitalization of $26B. Sprint would take on the debt.
- More Sprint / T-Mobile deal.
Jan. 16, 2014, 5:20 PM
- The WSJ reports Sprint (S) has "received proposals from at least two banks" for financing a T-Mobile USA (TMUS) bid, and envisions valuing T-Mobile's equity at $31B (compares favorably to a current market cap of $26B).
- Financing, of course, is only one of several challenges Sprint would face in merging with T-Mobile. The company and parent SoftBank (SFTBF) would have to negotiate a deal for Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGY, DTEGF) 67% T-Mobile stake. They would also have to win the blessing of FCC/DOJ regulators who seem to prefer having four nationwide carriers around, and appear to be pleased with T-Mobile's aggressive pricing.
- There's also the matter of Dish (DISH -2.2%), which reportedly won't stand idly if Sprint bids for T-Mobile, and could have much less trouble winning the blessing of regulators.
- In addition to acquiring Deutsche's T-Mobile stake, Sprint may need to backstop a possible refinancing of ~$20B worth of T-Mobile deal.
- S +2.8% AH. TMUS +2.3%.
Dec. 26, 2013, 12:24 PM
- Wells Fargo has raised its Sprint (S +3.1%) valuation range to $11-$11.75 from $7.75-$8.25, and predicts ongoing reports of a Sprint/SoftBank bid for T-Mobile USA (TMUS +0.7%) will continue to bolster shares.
- The firm also thinks the value of Sprint's spectrum (increased by the Clearwire acquisition) helps create a base for shares, and notes a T-Mobile deal would produce major cost savings.
- Meanwhile, Reuters observes the Obama Administration has taken a skeptical view towards consolidation between major carriers and pay-TV providers, something that could stand in the way of a Sprint/T-Mobile deal.
- New FCC chairman Tom Wheeler recently stated his organization has a responsibility to "protect competition that exists and promote competition in those areas where it doesn't." Likewise, DOJ antitrust attorney William Baer has said the Department "believes it is essential to maintain vigilance against any lessening of the intensity of competitive market forces."
Dec. 24, 2013, 1:33 PM
- The Nikkei reports SoftBank (SFTBF, SFTBY) is "in the final stages of talks" with Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY, DTEGF) regarding a deal in which 78%-owned Sprint (S -0.2%) would acquire Deutsche's 67% stake in T-Mobile USA (TMUS +1%). Sources add the deal could happen as soon as next spring, and could be worth more than ¥2T ($19.2B).
- A ¥2T price tag for Deutsche's T-Mobile USA stake would translate into a $28.7B valuation for the #4 U.S. mobile carrier. T-Mobile USA, whose shares have risen sharply thanks to Sprint M&A rumors, currently has a market cap of $25.5B.
- SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has reportedly been busy lining up financing for a T-Mobile USA bid, which is bound to be intensely scrutinized by regulators. Reuters has reported Dish (DISH +1.1%) is also thinking of bidding for T-Mobile, and wouldn't stand idly if Sprint made a move.
Dec. 20, 2013, 4:20 PM
- Bloomberg has joined the WSJ in reporting Sprint (S +6.7%) is trying to obtain financing for a T-Mobile USA (TMUS +4.7%) bid from six banks, and provides additional details.
- Bloomberg's sources indicate SoftBank (SFTBF) CEO Masayoshi Son has personally talked with banks about obtaining ~$20B in financing. His goal: To buy Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGY) 67% stake in T-Mobile in an all-cash deal.
- At the same time, Sprint's management is said to be "reluctant" to deal with integrating Sprint and T-Mobile's incompatible 3G networks; Sprint uses the EV-DO air interface, while T-Mobile uses W-CDMA/HSPA. But with SoftBank owning 78% of Sprint, their objections may be rendered moot.
- Also: With regulatory approval of a Sprint/T-Mobile deal far from certain, Son reportedly wants to avoid agreeing to a large breakup fee. AT&T had to pay a $7B breakup fee to T-Mobile two years ago.
- Separately, T-Mobile has scheduled a Jan. 8 CES event where it will reveal the fourth part of its "un-carrier" strategy. Part one involved the elimination of phone subsidies and contracts in favor of monthly phone installment plans; part two involved the launch of T-Mobile's Jump smartphone upgrade plans; and part three brought cheap global data roaming and international talk/text plans.
Dec. 20, 2013, 12:08 PM
- The WSJ reports at least six banks are working on financing proposals for a Sprint (S +3%) bid for T-Mobile USA (TMUS +0.7%). Sprint, whose shares jumped a week ago when the paper first reported the carrier is thinking of making an offer for its smaller rival, is now up 16% since the initial report arrived.
- Financing or not, close regulatory scrutiny of a proposed merger between the third and fourth-largest U.S. mobile carriers is a given. JPMorgan noted yesterday a Dish (DISH +1.6%) bid for T-Mobile (TMUS +0.7%), also reportedly being weighed, would have much less trouble being cleared by regulators.
Dec. 18, 2013, 4:06 PM
- Less than a week after rallying in response to a WSJ report that Sprint (S +2.3%) is considering a bid, T-Mobile USA (TMUS +2.2%) has moved higher on a Reuters report stating Dish (DISH +0.5%) is weighing a bid for the #4 U.S. carrier, and won't stand idly if Sprint makes an offer.
- Charlie Ergen, thwarted this year in his efforts to buy Sprint/Clearwire and still looking to make use of Dish's 4G spectrum, has repeatedly stated he's open to a merger with T-Mobile.
Dec. 13, 2013, 4:41 PM
- Sources tell the WSJ Sprint (S +4.3%) is "studying regulatory concerns" related to a T-Mobile USA (TMUS +8.2%) bid, and that SoftBank (SFTBF) founder/CEO Masayoshi Son is "driving" the effort. However, they caution Sprint hasn't yet decided whether to make a move.
- Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY), which retains a 67% stake in T-Mobile USA, is said to be "looking to possibly exit the U.S. market." Though Deutsche is currently prohibited from selling T-Mobile shares until 18 months have passed from the closing of the MetroPCS deal, it can sell earlier if it received an offer for the entire stake.
- Sprint and T-Mobile only have 53M postpaid subs between them, less than Verizon's 95M and AT&T's 72M. If they try to go through with a merger, they'll mention such figures to regulators early and often.
- But the FCC and DOJ, only two years removed from thwarting AT&T's bid for T-Mobile, haven't given any indication they're now comfortable seeing further consolidation among nationwide U.S. carriers.
- Previous: Sprint reportedly working on deal with T-Mobile
Dec. 13, 2013, 4:01 PM
- The WSJ reports Sprint (S +5%) could make a bid for T-Mobile USA (TMUS +7.8%) in 1H14. Both Sprint and T-Mobile shares have spiked in response.
- The FCC would doubtlessly give close scrutiny to a deal that would reduce the number of nationwide U.S. carriers to three from four. But Sprint majority owner SoftBank (SFTBF) hasn't been scared to make big bets.
- Both Sprint and T-Mobile's wireless subscriber bases are considerably smaller than Verizon and AT&T's, particularly with regards to corporate users. Sprint may be betting regulators will allow a deal to go through for this reason.
Oct. 18, 2013, 12:29 PM
- SoftBank (SFTBF.PK +0.3%) invests $1.26B in mobile device/accessories distributor Brightstar, valuing the company at an enterprise value of $2.2B. In conjunction, the Softbank, Sprint, and Brightstar Buying & Innovation Group joint venture will become a division of Brightstar.
- The investment aims to be a pricing power win-win as Brightstar becomes the exclusive provider of handsets, accessories, and services to certain SoftBank telco affiliates. Brightstar plans to purchase over $20B in devices/accessories. The move could reduce procurement expenses at Sprint (S -1.5%), in which SoftBank owns an 80% stake.
- Over the next 5 years, based on certain contingencies, SoftBank's ownership will accrete to 70%, from 57% today. Brightstar founder Marcelo Claure holds the remaining 43% of the company.
- Previous: SoftBank acquires 51% stake in Supercell for $1.5B
Sep. 25, 2013, 11:40 AM
- During a Goldman conference talk, T-Mobile USA (TMUS +2.3%) CFO Braxton Carter called a merger between his company and Sprint (S -2.3%) the "logical ultimate combination." But he also admitted the current M&A regulatory environment is "tough."
- T-Mobile and Sprint have been bleeding share in recent years to bigger rivals Verizon and AT&T. However, T-Mobile has begun to reverse its fortunes with the help of an iPhone deal, contract-free plans, and its Jump smartphone upgrade program. Sprint is betting aggressive pricing and a rapid 4G buildout will help it do the same.
- Regulators may not be the only reason a T-Mobile/Sprint deal would be challenging in the near-term. T-Mobile is in the midst of digesting MetroPCS, and Sprint is fresh off acquiring Clearwire and merging with SoftBank (SFTBF.PK).
- Separately, SoftBank has extended Sprint CEO Dan Hesse's contract through July 2018.