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Sprint Attempts, Pulls Back from Buyout of MetroPCS; Wall Street Questions Management

Phillip Dampier February 27, 2012 Competition, Consumer News, MetroPCS, Sprint, Video, Wireless Broadband No Comments

An aborted takeover attempt of MetroPCS by America’s third largest cell phone company — Sprint Nextel has some on Wall Street calling for the hide of Sprint CEO Dan Hesse.

The proposed multibillion dollar takeover of prepaid provider MetroPCS, which offers mostly urban service in select cities, was vetoed late last week by Sprint’s own board of directors.

The deal would have delivered a 30 percent premium to MetroPCS shareholders, and further consolidate America’s wireless marketplace. It would have also further complicated Sprint’s financial position — already heavily indebted as it commits to a major 4G wireless service upgrade and deals with an even more expensive commitment to Apple to pitch the iPhone on Sprint’s network.

Reuters reports some investors considered the deal a mistake and are glad it was aborted.

A 30 percent premium seemed “irrational” and would have hurt Sprint shareholders, Roe Equity Research Kevin Roe told the news service.

“He’s on a short leash,” Roe said. “The board did the right thing, thank God. It’s remarkable this deal got this far.”

MetroPCS competes with Sprint’s prepaid services in several regions including metropolitan New York City, northeastern Texas, southern California, southern Michigan and central/southern Florida.  MetroPCS operates its own 4G LTE network.

Now that MetroPCS is considered “in play,” it is likely other suitors may consider buying the company out.  Among the most likely — Leap Wireless, which owns Cricket and operates a comparable service.

Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research has told investors the wireless industry continues to be “crying out for consolidation.”  The most important players in that consolidation story are T-Mobile and Sprint, which remain potential partners if the two companies can overcome their technology differences.  T-Mobile operates a GSM network incompatible with Sprint-Nextel.

CNBC reports Sprint walked away from a takeover attempt of MetroPCS on Friday.  (3 minutes)

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