* Louisiana regulator approves merger
* 11 state AGs send letter in support
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, July 27 AT&T Inc's (T.N) $39
billion plan to acquire Deutsche Telekom AG's (DTEGn.DE)
T-Mobile unit got support from a Louisiana regulator and 11
state attorneys general on Wednesday.
The Louisiana Public Service Commission, which regulates
public utilities and transportation in the state, said it voted
4-1 to approve the merger, after staff found nothing to suggest
the wireless deal was contrary to the public interest.
Separately, 11 state attorneys general wrote to the U.S.
Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission in
support of the transaction that would vault the combined
companies ahead of current market leader Verizon Wireless.
Attorneys general from Arkansas, Utah, Alabama, Georgia,
Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota,
West Virginia and Wyoming said they believed the merger would
bring better service and faster data speeds.
They asked for merger-specific conditions to protect
competition and the public interest without delaying the
merger, according to a news release from the Arkansas AG's
A statement by the Utah attorney general said the merger
may raise competitive concerns in some discrete local markets
and the AGs asked for targeted remedies in those cases.
The ultimate decision on the deal rests with the U.S.
Justice Department, that is conducting an antitrust review, and
the FCC, which is weighing whether the transaction is in the
The merger would concentrate 80 percent of the U.S.
wireless market in just two companies -- AT&T/T-Mobile and
Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications (VZ.N)
and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L).
AT&T argues that the purchase of T-Mobile will help it
expand faster service to more customers.
Critics charge that less competition will increase prices
and limit consumer choice.
AT&T's top lawyer welcomed the position of the 11 state
"Their call for federal regulators to expeditiously review
and approve the merger further builds on our unprecedented
nationwide support from federal, state and local elected
officials, national unions, non-profit organizations, and
high-tech and venture capital firms," said Wayne Watts, AT&T's
senior executive vice president and general counsel.
But some prominent U.S. lawmakers and competitors have come
out against the deal, including Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of
the U.S. Senate's antitrust subcommittee. [ID:nN1E76J1CI]
Third-ranked U.S. wireless carrier Sprint Nextel (S.N) has
said AT&T should use the money it plans to pay for T-Mobile to
improve its network without removing a national competitor.
Sprint spokesman John Taylor said the Louisiana
commission's decision was simply not to oppose AT&T's takeover
and to instead defer to the FCC -- "far from the ringing
endorsement AT&T sought."
(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)