By Alina Selyukh and Sinead Carew
Feb 4 Federal Communications Commission Chairman
Tom Wheeler expressed his skepticism about a potential merger
between Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc in a
meeting with Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son on Monday, according
to an FCC official briefed on the matter.
Son, chief executive at Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp,
which acquired Sprint last year, met with the top U.S.
telecommunications regulator alongside Sprint Chief Executive
Wheeler told Son and Hesse he was highly skeptical of the
potential bid by No. 3 wireless provider Sprint to acquire No. 4
rival T-Mobile, according to the FCC official, who was not
present at the meeting.
Wheeler said he would keep an open mind about the potential
transaction, according to the official, and generally echoed
comments made last week by antitrust chief William Baer, who
gave long odds to a regulatory approval of mergers between any
two of the top four wireless phone companies.
Sprint has been trying to convince U.S. regulators that the
prospect of more U.S. mobile industry consolidation should not
be dismissed without a fair review, according to a person
familiar with the situation.
Sprint's argument is that the current market isn't serving
U.S. consumers well because the two top players Verizon
Communications Inc AT&T Inc are so dominant that it
makes sustainable competition from the other two players very
challenging, the person said.
A Sprint spokesman declined comment on Monday. The FCC does
not comment on merger speculation. FCC chiefs routinely meet
with industry executives in sessions that often cover a wide
range of topics.
A SoftBank spokesman in Tokyo declined to comment.
Separately, a person close to SoftBank said: "I'm not unduly
surprised by the FCC chairman's skepticism. I feel it's a rather
Son's SoftBank has recently been in talks to acquire
T-Mobile, itself controlled by Deutsche Telekom,
sources have told Reuters, although the deal would face strong
headwinds in getting regulators' approval at the Justice
Department and the FCC.
Baer and Wheeler have both hailed the 2011 rejection of a
merger between AT&T and T-Mobile as yielding a more competitive
market that is better for consumers. Wheeler has routinely
answered public questions about potential wireless mergers by
saying that he is an "unabashed" defender of competition.
AT&T over the weekend announced a plan to cut prices on its
large shared data plans in the latest sign that the rivalry
between the top U.S. cellular players may be triggering
In Tokyo SoftBank shares rebounded after falling as much as
5.8 percent on Tuesday morning to 6,655 yen, their lowest in
more than four months. At midday the stock was up 2.6 percent,
defying a 2.6 percent drop in the benchmark Nikkei average