* Wants help to finance network investment -report
* Possible partners include MetroPCS, Clearwire, AT&T-report
* Deutsche Telekom COO declines comment to Reuters
(Recasts with source comments)
FRANKFURT, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE) is keeping its options open for its U.S. business and is not close to making a decision on the unit’s mid-tem future, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
“There is no pressure and there is no decision short-term,” the two people told Reuters.
Handelsblatt newspaper, citing unidentified people from the German company, reported that Europe’s largest telecoms group is looking for a partner for its U.S. mobile business
It said Deutsche Telekom wants the partner to help finance billions of euros of investment in network expansion and possible partners included competitors MetroPCS PCS.N, Clearwire CLWR.O and AT&T (T.N) and companies from outside the industry such as a financial investor.
As part of a partnership with a financial investor, the investor might take a stake in Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. unit, Handelsblatt reported.
Deutsche Telekom’s chief operating officer, who told Reuters the company remained committed to the U.S. market in October [ID:nN2399093], declined to comment on the report when asked by Reuters in London.
Hamid Akhavan said he would not comment on speculation but earlier told the FT World Telecoms Conference he expected the difficult headwinds experienced in the United States to improve. “We have had some heavy headwinds ... but we are quite optimistic that this trend can be reversed,” he said, attributing the problems to a delay in the group securing third generation networks and the population of Apple’s (AAPL.O) iPhone on a rival network. The newspaper report said the company was still in the initial stages of the search for a partner but, for the time being, had abandoned other potential strategies to bolster its U.S. business, the people said, according to the paper.
The German company is no longer considering a share sale and a takeover of rival Sprint-Nextel (S.N), unidentified people from within Deutsche Telekom’s management said, Handelsblatt reported.
T-Mobile USA, ranked a distant No.4 position in the U.S. mobile market, has been losing ground to bigger companies like Verizon Wireless (VZ.N)(VOD.L) and AT&T Inc (T.N) as well as smaller companies like Leap Wireless LEAP.O and MetroPCS.
It has also struggled in Britain in the last year but announced in September that it planned to merge with France Telecom’s FTE.PA Orange in the market to better compete with the likes of Telefonica’s (TEF.MC) O2 and Vodafone.
Akhavan said he was quite optimistic there would be no challenges to the deal because the market is in need of consolidation.
However, the boss of regulator Ofcom, speaking at the same event, declined to comment on the likelihood of a challenge to the joint venture but noted the strong competition had resulted in low prices, choice for consumers and a range of services.
Akhavan said he did not believe the company would have to relinquish some spectrum as part of the deal.
Reporting by Peter Dinkloh in Frankfurt, Nikola Rotscheroth in Duesseldorf and Kate Holton in London; Editing by David Cowell