The list of attorneys general potentially standing in opposition to T-Mobile's proposed buyout of Sprint has grown this week, with Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania officials now joining in on state-level probes investigating the impact of a merger between the two companies. Speculatively, each attorney general is reportedly thought to be investigating not only the impact of a merger on consumers in their respective regions but also the likely outcome for other carriers.
A decision regarding the more than $26 billion deal will fall on the shoulders Department of Justice Antitrust Division Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. While state-by-state probes are not out of the ordinary, the investigations could throw a wrench in that timeline. Any of the attorneys general could push back against an approval if one is awarded.
Stacking on other recent problems
The prospect of issues stemming from the probes stacks on top of other recently reported bad news for T-Mobile and Sprint, with regard to the merger. State representatives at the federal level have sought to limit the reach and influence of tech companies in the US already and have most recently launched an investigation of their own regarding whether or not any illicit activity has been happening in the discussion surrounding the merger.
While the head of the FCC has officially approved the merger and is requesting fellow commissioners to do the same, the decision ultimately falls to the head of the DOJ Antitrust Division. Mr. Delrahim is under no obligation to follow the recommendations of staff within the unit, some of which have rallied against the deal between the providers citing concerns about costs to consumers and a decrease in the overall competitiveness of the market.
Statements made by T-Mobile and Sprint have been in direct opposition to those worries, with the companies planning to add thousands of jobs and improve pricing. That would be accomplished alongside a much faster rollout of 5G, the companies have claimed. Sprint has gone so far as to admitted its business may not survive at all without the merger.
Is this ever going to reach a conclusion?
The over $26 billion deal between the two carriers has already been pushed for approval from US officials since mid-April of last year. In that time, the companies have dropped ties to Huawei in the wake of allegations against the Chinese tech giant and promised to sell off Sprint MVNO Boost Mobile in exchange for approval. That's in addition to laying out plans for workers and other details pertinent to a merger.
That hasn't necessarily been effective.
Whether or not the deal should gain approval has been hotly contested since its proposal, resulting in a lot of back-and-forth discussion and deliberation. If contested by any of the states that are now looking into the merger, the uphill battle for T-Mobile and Sprint will become an even bigger challenge.
Conversely, if Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim follows recommendations of the Antitrust Division staff, a conclusion could be reached as early as July, pending an appeal. With consideration for the number of times that the merger has come close to being finalized or rejected, a conclusion in that timeframe is by no means guaranteed.