T-Mobile and Sprint are “not engaged in any serious discussions” regarding a merger, according to Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. But Sprint clearly hopes it can join forces with the nation’s third-largest carrier at some point.
Claure told Fortune this week that while a tie-up between the two carriers is compelling, it is highly unlikely to happen under current U.S. regulatory policies. Sprint dropped its pursuit of T-Mobile two years ago after U.S. regulators made it clear they prefer a market with four major carriers rather than three.
“We’ve always said that we were interested” in a merger with T-Mobile, Claure told Fortune. “It would be nice to combine both companies to give us scale. Today that is a wish.”
Bloomberg reported this week that SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son still hopes to merge with T-Mobile. SoftBank owns a majority of Sprint. Son is likely to pursue T-Mobile again if he feels that a new FCC head – who has yet to be named – may be more favorable of a merger than Tom Wheeler, who currently heads the Commission.
Deutsche Telekom owns more than 65 percent of T-Mobile and has long sought to spin off its U.S. carrier to focus on its European businesses. The German telecom has reportedly shelved those efforts, though, as T-Mobile focuses on adding to its spectrum portfolio during the ongoing incentive auction.
Meanwhile, the price of T-Mobile has increased dramatically over the last three years as the carrier has established itself as a legitimate threat to Verizon and AT&T. T-Mobile overcame Sprint last year to become the third-largest mobile network operator in the U.S., and its market cap has more than doubled since early 2013 to surpass $38 billion.
Sprint is beginning to regain its footing in the U.S. wireless market, and it might still make an attractive candidate for a merger with T-Mobile. Even if the two carriers could agree to terms, though, a tie-up is likely to be a tough sell to any new FCC chair.
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