Report: SoftBank, DT reach 'basic agreement' on Sprint/T-Mobile merger

Sprint (NYSE: S) parent SoftBank and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) parent Deutsche Telekom have reportedly reached a "basic agreement" for Sprint to merge with T-Mobile, according to a report in the Japanese business publication Nikkei.

The Nikkei report, which came over the weekend and did not cite its sources, said SoftBank plans to buy more than 50 percent of T-Mobile's shares through Sprint from DT, which still owns around 67 percent of T-Mobile. SoftBank will pay cash and will use stock swaps to cover the estimated purchase price of more than $16 billion.

Multiple reports in early June indicated that Sprint would pay $32 billion for T-Mobile in a transaction that would combine the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers, so a $16 billion price tag for around 50 percent of T-Mobile fits with that outline.

Representatives for Sprint and DT declined to comment. A spokeswoman for SoftBank also declined to comment, according to the Kansas City Star.

According to the Nikkei report, the two sides are still hammering out the details of the deal, which would give the combined carrier close to 100 million customers, nearing the scale of AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ).

Further, the report added that eight financial institutions will help SoftBank finance the deal via credit lines of around $39 billion. The firms include Japan's top banks of Mizuho, Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsu as well as JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has been actively lobbying U.S. regulators at the FCC and Department of Justice, which will need to approve the deal. Son has argued that in order to take on Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), AT&T and Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile need to combine to serve as a counterweight to the other companies and provide more competition. The argument could carry weight as the FCC also contemplates proposed mega-deals between AT&T and DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) and Comcast and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC). However, regulators have expressed skepticism about reducing the number of national wireless carriers from four to three.

In June, Son told a group of reporters in Tokyo that he is hopeful that there will be more discussion about a possible deal, and that more discussion will lead to less resistance from regulators to a possible merger of the two companies. According to Reuters, when asked whether that initial resistance to the deal had changed, Son said: "I'm not in a position to make the comment on the other end, but, you know, the last few months, there's new movement."

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said shortly afterward that creating a bigger No. 3 carrier in the U.S. market would lead to better coverage in rural areas.

For more:
- see this Nikkei article
- see this AFP article
- see this Kansas City Star article

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