Mergers & acquisitions

Sprint: AT&T's Misleading on Merger Talk

There may be no end to the back-and-forth between Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) over the latter's plans to acquire T-Mobile US Inc. . In the latest pot shot, Sprint called an impromptu press conference Tuesday afternoon to "correct the record on AT&T's recent misstatements." (See AT&T & Sprint's War of Words Gets Louder.)

Tom Johnson, managing director and head of M&A for Abernathy MacGregor Group, sent out the invite to the press call, calling AT&T's Jim Cicconi's blog post on Friday an attempt to distort Sprint's position -- which Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has been trumpeting at different speaking engagements -- on both competition and M&A activity in the wireless industry. (See Sprint Plans to Fight the AT&T/T-Mobile Deal.)

In a 10-minute call with no Q&A, Sprint spokesman John Taylor reiterated that AT&T plus T-Mobile equals 80 percent market share and that Hesse said the industry is competitive as is with four Tier 1 operators. Cutting it down to two would do away with that, he said.

"There's nothing competitive about two companies owning 80 percent of the market," Taylor said. "If we didn’t believe this was a competitive industry, there'd be nothing to lose and no one at Sprint would be protesting."

Cicconi also called out Hesse for previously touting the importance of M&A, but Taylor said that was in response to a direct question about whether Sprint would consider buying a prepaid player -- not about if he favors duopolies. He added that AT&T and T-Mobile's networks almost entirely overlap and that combining them will do little to ease connectivity problems.

Sprint also joined the Rural Cellular Association on Tuesday as it paints itself among the small victims of the big AT&T and T-Mobile bully. (See AT&T & T-Mobile's Goliath Crushes the Davids.)

Cicconi did take Hesse's comments out of context, but, really, both AT&T and Sprint are trying to distract the public into believing their point of view. Both have their share of fair points, as well as misleading half-truths. Both are also, above all else, out for their own business interests.

It's all just semantics at this point anyway. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and U.S. Department of Justice will make the final decision on whether the deal harms consumers, competition and innovation.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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