T-Mobile/Sprint merger review suspended

The 180-day review period was suspended earlier this week. (Pixabay)

The federal government funding lapse has claimed another victim, at least temporarily. The FCC has paused its review of the $26 billion proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint for the second time in four months.

The 180-day review period for mergers and other transactions that require FCC approval, otherwise known as a shot clock, was suspended earlier this week (PDF) when the agency shut down most operations due to the ongoing impasse over federal government funding. The partial government shutdown has effectively put the timeline for a final decision on hold until Congress and the president come to an agreement on a federal government spending bill.

The FCC started reviewing the proposed merger of the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers on June 18, 2018, but paused the review process on Sept. 11 when the companies submitted new documents. Consideration of the deal got underway again on Dec. 4, at day 55 of the review timeline.

T-Mobile previously said it hoped the transaction would close in the first quarter of 2019 but added that a second-quarter finish was more likely. If the current government shutdown defies expectations and continues well into the new year, T-Mobile and Sprint could be looking at a much longer timeline. The 180-day shot clock will resume once the FCC regains funding, and the agency can take up to three additional months to review the proposal.

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Back in late October, analysts at Wells Fargo gave the proposed merger a 70% chance of approval. Since then, the deal has received approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice.

The partial government shutdown is in its 14th day now. The longest federal funding impasse lasted 21 days, ending in January 1996.