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Posted at 10:39 AM ET, 12/20/2011

Analysts predict winners from AT&T, T-Mobile failure: Consumers


AT&T abandoned a $39 billion takeover bid for T-Mobile after underestimating opposition from federal regulators. (Bloomberg)
Whom does Wall Street think is the winner coming out of AT&T’s failed attempt to buy T-Mobile?

Consumers.

Well, they don’t necessarily put it that way. From their perspective, it’s not good for investors if the industry retains four major wireless players duking it out for new customers.

That may hurt corporate margins — the money they make above the costs of running their business — but the implications could be positive for users.

“Without the combination, we think the wireless industry will be further weakened by continued hypercompetitive activity, particularly regarding subscriber acquisition costs,” said Nomura Securities analyst Mike McCormack.

That means customers can still get lower rates as the industry competes for their dollars. T-Mobile, for example, will continue to be a low-cost competitor, according to consumer advocacy group Consumers Union. A survey showed that data plans from T-Mobile were $15 to $50 less per month than those offered by AT&T.

There are big questions for AT&T and T-Mobile going forward.

Some analysts, including Kevin Smithen at Macquarie Capital, worry about the future of AT&T, as it now has to deal with a data deluge on its network without the prospect of more spectrum in the pipeline.

Smithen said he believes the loss of T-Mobile “ is just the first of several potential negative catalysts for the shares.” The stock will drift lower over the coming months, he said, “as ... forecasts are reset and the company is forced to find other sources of spectrum,” he said.

But that effect was not immediate on Tuesday morning. AT&T’s shares opened pretty much unchanged at $28.74.

Some analysts speculated that AT&T could try to strike up a leasing agreement with or purchase Dish Network’s spectrum.

T-Mobile, the analysts said, will likely stay a stand-alone firm for a while, possibly pursuing leasing agreements of its spectrum with Sprint Nextel, among other wireless firms.

Related:

AT&T gives up bid for T-Mobile

Verizon inks spectrum deal with cable companies

How AT&T fumbled its $39B merger with T-Mobile

By  |  10:39 AM ET, 12/20/2011

 
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