Analyst: A Sprint and T-Mobile merger has a 10 percent chance of approval


Billionaire Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Corp., speaks during a news conference in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, June 5, 2014. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg)

That Sprint wants to buy T-Mobile is pretty much the telecom industry's worst-kept secret right now. On Wednesday, the two companies reportedly turned a corner in their negotiations: Reports suggest the two companies have settled on general terms for a deal, around $40 a share -- or about $32 billion -- with a $1 billion break-up fee if the merger doesn't go through.

The feds seem largely skeptical of yet another tech merger this year on top of Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV. In fact, it's such a long shot that a top telecom analyst thinks there's only a 10 percent chance that the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission will give Sprint-T-Mobile a green light.

"Softbank has apparently concluded that its odds of success are greater now — while the FCC and DOJ are simultaneously reviewing Comcast/TWC and AT&T/DTV — than they would be later," New York-based Moffett Nathanson wrote in a research note Thursday. "But realpolitik says otherwise. Approving all three would be untenable for the left. Rejecting all three would be untenable for the right. At least one of the three would have to be rejected. And it's easy to see which one of the three it would be."


(Moffett Nathanson)

Sprint's chairman, Masayoshi Son, has been touring the country trying to make the case for a merger, recruiting smaller wireless carriers to his cause and playing up the benefits of more consolidation to regulators. But he's got a lot of work to do ahead of him.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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