NEW YORK, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG has transferred ownership of its 67 percent stake in T-Mobile US to a Dutch holding company from a German holding company, fueling speculation it may be looking to sell the U.S. business.
Deutsche Telekom said on Thursday it made the transfer as part of a larger internal restructuring to simplify its business structure, and that it should not be interpreted as anything else.
The move, which was quietly disclosed to U.S. regulators on Wednesday, follows reports that Japan's SoftBank Corp is looking to buy No. 4 U.S. mobile operator T-Mobile US to merge it with Sprint Corp, which 80 percent owned by SoftBank, and that satellite TV provider Dish Corp is also considering buying T-Mobile.
BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk said in a research note that Deutsche Telekom could be transferring ownership for tax reasons related to a potential sale of the U.S. asset, which it already tried to sell to AT&T Inc in 2011.
"The Netherlands offers favorable tax treatment on asset sales," Piecyk said, noting that Vodafone Group Plc holds its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless in the Netherlands and is expected to have a very "tax-efficient" transaction as a result.
But Piecyk noted that a Sprint-T-Mobile merger may be blocked by U.S. regulators worried about the elimination of one of four national wireless operators.
Deutsche Telekom said in the filing it had transferred the stake to Deutsche Telekom Holding B.V. in the Netherlands from T-Mobile Global Holding GMbH as part of an internal restructuring.
The German company said it is also transferring ownership of Hungarian and Czech assets to the Netherlands as part of its restructuring.