Optical/IP Networks

AT&T to Buy Dobson for $5.1B

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has announced plans to buy Dobson Communications for $13 per share -- as well as assuming the operator's debt -- for about $5.1 billion in total. AT&T says the buyout will allow it to expand its wireless coverage in the U.S.

Third-ranked regional operator Dobson Communications Corp. (Nasdaq: DCEL) runs the Cellular One network in 17 states in the U.S. The Oklahoma City-based firm has been a roaming partner with AT&T -- or previous companies swallowed by the communications giant -- since 1990.

The buyout offer, which is expected to close by the end of the year, is the second large buyout of a major regional operator in as many months. In May, the largest regional operator in the U.S. Alltel Corp. (NYSE: AT) accepted a TPG Capital offer of $27.5 billion for its operations. (See Alltel Accepts $27.5B Buyout Offer.)

The buyout leaves only a couple of major independent regional operators in existence, along with around 15 smaller local concerns. U.S. Cellular Corp. (NYSE: USM) and SunCom are larger local operators, while MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) and Cricket are among the smaller localized concerns, although MetroPCS hopes to expand through a $1 billion IPO into more markets. (See MetroPCS Eyes $1B IPO.)

SunCom saw its shares up over 13 percent Monday on the back of the Dobson acquisition news, and other regional operators also got a lift from investors speculating on further M&A prospects.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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