WSJ: Alltel looking for buyer

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Alltel has "stepped up efforts" to sell itself to carriers like AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, which runs counter to speculation last week that the country's number five carrier would have a chance with anyone besides Verizon Wireless. The report claims that "AT&T has been willing to entertain the possibility" of acquiring Alltel, but antitrust problems are the company's greatest concern with such a venture. Verizon and various PE firms have also toyed with the idea of scooping up Alltel, but the report says early discussions have engendered "lukewarm" interest in the carrier. Another potential barrier to acquisition for would-be buyers is that the rumors swirling around the deal could push Alltel's stock price too high. Sprint's discussions with Alltel didn't go too far because the carrier has had trouble integrating its Nextel merger from 2005, the report says.

Alltel, of course, has other options besides the acquisition route, it could buy back a large chunk of stock, pay a large one-time dividend or reshape its network-sharing "roaming agreements" with other carriers. I'm sure there are others, too, within the company's "wide span of options."

For more on Alltel's rumored talks:
- check out this article from the WSJ (sub. req.)