Comcast has entered the bidding process for T-Mobile US and may now be the strongest contender, according to a press report out of Germany this morning.
In its latest edition, Manager Magazin reports that Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) is now talking with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) about selling its T-Mobile US Inc. operation to the largest US cable company. The reports follow months of speculation about Comcast's interest in buying T-Mobile, especially after its $45.2 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) cratered nearly two months ago.
Deutsche Telekom has declined to comment on the reports. Comcast did not respond to questions about the reports before this story went to press.
As has been reported earlier, Deutsche Telekom is also still talking to Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) and other possible suitors about T-Mobile. But the on-and-off discussions with Dish have apparently cooled in recent weeks as Deutsche Telekom has sought more attractive buyers. (See Not So Fast on Dish/T-Mobile Deal, Analyst Says .)
As reported by Manager Magazin, Deutsche Telekom executives view Comcast as a more appealing acquirer for T-Mobile because the giant MSO is financially stronger than Dish and other candidates and could buy all shares of T-Mobile. Deutsche Telekom, which has been seeking to shed its US assets in favor of a pan-European focus, reportedly plans to use the proceeds from the sale of its controlling 67% stake in T-Mobile to launch a takeover bid for UK fixed-line incumbent BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). (See Deutsche Telekom Plotting BT Takeover – Report.)
In many ways, an acquisition of spectrum-rich T-Mobile would make sense for Comcast, which has made no secret of its grand wireless ambitions in the US. It's widely known that MSO executives are now working on plans to launch some type of WiFi-first mobile service that would rely on both WiFi and cellular networks to deliver calls and data to customers.
But Comcast, which dropped its bid for Time Warner Cable in late April because of strong regulatory opposition, could run into the same roadblocks at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice if it tries to buy T-Mobile. Comcast may also not be willing to pay top dollar for T-Mobile, now the third-biggest wireless provider in the US, especially if MSO executives believe that WiFi networks, not cellular networks, will ultimately control most of the nation's mobile traffic.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading