Justice Department signs off on AT&T-Centennial deal

The U.S. Department of Justice approved AT&T's $944 million acquisition of Centennial Communications, but said that AT&T would have to divest some of Centennial's assets in eight service areas in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. The companies said they still expect the deal to close in the early fourth quarter; still pending is approval by the FCC.

Five of the eight service areas AT&T is required to divest are heading to Verizon Wireless. The carriers announced in May a divested asset swap--AT&T scored assets Verizon Wireless was required to divest as part of Verizon's acquisition of Alltel.

AT&T first announced its acquisition of Centennial in November. The move came days after the FCC, under former chairman Kevin Martin, approved Verizon's $28.1 billion acquisition of Alltel, which made Verizon the nation's largest wireless carrier in terms of subscribers, leapfrogging AT&T.

Approval of the Centennial acquisition by the antitrust regulators at the Justice Department had taken longer than AT&T initially expected. Indeed, carrier executives have noted the extended review process; AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in mid-September that he thought regulation of the telecom space had grown tighter under the Obama administration. Later in September, Stephenson said that the process was "surprisingly long."

"We are pleased with the Department of Justice's decision and see it as an important step toward closing our acquisition of Centennial," said Wayne Watts, AT&T's senior executive vice president and general counsel.

In related news, Centennial reported quarterly results that showed 633,100 total subscribers in its U.S. wireless operations and 424,400 total subscribers in its Puerto Rico wireless operations.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this release on Centennial's earnings
- see this release from AT&T and Centennial

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