Washington's New Policies Bad News For T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

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Antitrust policies presently being enforced by the Trump administration and its Department of Justice are widely believed to be bad news for a potential merger of T-Mobile and Sprint that the two wireless carriers are now said to be discussing for the third time in four years. The current political leadership in the country defied expectations and took a hard stance on the proposed consolidation of AT&T and Time Warner, a vertical merger that doesn't directly take out any competition from the market and is the type of a tie-up that historically saw little opposition from Washington. Despite a lack of precedent for doing so, the DOJ moved to block the deal through a lawsuit late last year, citing major antitrust concerns.

The DOJ and the Federal Communications Commission already blocked SoftBank's attempt to purchase T-Mobile and combine it with Sprint nearly four years ago, having done so under the former Obama administration, with both agencies arguing that any deal that reduces the number of major mobile service providers in the country wouldn't be beneficial for consumers. Two years later, the two telecom giants and their parent companies once again started discussing a potential tie-up, having reportedly agreed to it in principle before walking away from the talks after Deutsche Telekom and SoftBank found themselves at an impasse, with neither firm being willing to cede the controlling stake of a hypothetical combined entity that such a merger would create. It's still unclear what prompted the two sides to revive talks over the matter only five months after not giving in to each other's ultimatums, with some industry watchers speculating that one side is now prepared to discuss a scenario in which it wouldn't have complete control of the consolidated company.

The latest iteration of merger talks between Sprint and T-Mobile are still understood to be at an early stage but could progress faster than the previous discussions given how the two are already understood to have agreed to some preliminary terms late last year and may still adhere to them without revisiting every aspect of a potential tie-up.

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