UPDATE 1-T-Mobile talks about wanting Leap's customers rather than bidding
By Sinead Carew
NEW YORK, July 16 (Reuters) - Wireless service provider T-Mobile US indicated on Tuesday that it will compete to lure customers away from rival Leap Wireless rather than make a bid for the company.
Several Wall Street analysts have speculated this week that T-Mobile or another company could also bid for Leap, after AT&T Inc on Friday bid $1.2 billion, or $15 per share, for it.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, T-Mobile's Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert declined to say directly whether the company would or would not put in a bid for Leap, but said it would still try to lure away some Leap customers.
"We're going to take Leap the old fashioned way, customer by customer in the market and in doing so we'll probably save ourselves billions of billions of dollars," Sievert said when asked if his company would make a bid for Leap.
Earlier this year T-Mobile US merged with MetroPCS, which was long seen as a natural merger partner with Leap as both companies have a similar customer base and marketing strategy and little overlap in their operating regions.
Even as analysts said that AT&T would be paying a high price for Leap, they have been holding out hope for a rival bid for Leap from a company such as T-Mobile US, Dish Network or Verizon Communications.
Satellite TV provider Dish, which has been looking to team up with a wireless network operator to make use of its wireless spectrum, recently lost out to SoftBank Corp in a battle to buy No. 3 U.S. mobile operator Sprint.
Verizon has historically used the same network technology as Leap, leading some analysts to suggest that it might bid.
Leap's shares have traded above the acquisition price since the AT&T bid was announced on Friday evening, fueling speculation that it may receive another bid.
However, at least part of the share price rise may be due to AT&T's promise to give Leap shareholders the proceeds of the sale of wireless airwaves that Leap bought in 2012 for about $200 million.
Leap shares close up 32 cents, or 1.9 percent, at $17.27 on the Nasdaq on Tuesday afternoon.
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