Sprint moves ahead with T-Mobile bid plan: Sources

T-Mobile CEO says more customers staying longer

Sprint is meeting with banks to work out funding for its bid for smaller rival T-Mobile US, a source familiar with the situation said, as the mobile carrier works to ease regulatory concerns that the deal would hurt competition.

The source said that Sprint, which is owned by Japan's SoftBank, is hoping to fund the bulk of T-Mobile's estimated $50 billion price tag with corporate bonds and cover the rest with syndicated loans and convertible bonds.

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Sprint is currently talking to at least five banks, the source told Reuters, including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank.

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Bloomberg, which first reported that Sprint was in talks with banks on Thursday morning in Asia, said the carrier was also talking to Mizuho Financial Group and Citibank. Softbank is expected to make a formal offer in June or July, Bloomberg added.

Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton told Reuters the company does not comment on rumors and speculation. T-Mobile and SoftBank both declined to comment on the Bloomberg report.

Sprint is facing a battle ahead with U.S. regulators who oppose consolidation in the wireless market on the basis it would inhibit competition. The company is aware it may have to give up some of its spectrum holdings to win over critics, the source said.

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Two of the most vocal opponents to the deal are Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and U.S. antitrust chief William Baer, who have pointed to T-Mobile's success since U.S. authorities rejected a 2011 merger between AT&T and T-Mobile on the grounds the market needs at least four major players to be competitive.

The failure of that deal cost AT&T a $6 billion break-up fee, a penalty Sprint feels confident it can avoid, the source said, adding that it is leaning towards having Deutsche Telekom, which currently owns 67 percent of T-Mobile, retain part of that stake.

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SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son is lobbying regulators by arguing his purchase of a second U.S. mobile operator would break up a cozy oligopoly dominated by AT&T and Verizon Communications, pointing to the price war he initiated when he took over Vodafone's failing Japanese operation eight years ago.

T-Mobile has a market cap of $23.52 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Discounts help T-Mobile add more customers

T-Mobile US said it added a net 2.4 million customers in the first quarter, up from 579,000 a year earlier, as the company's aggressive discounts won over customers.

The No. 4 U.S. mobile operator's revenue rose 47 percent to $6.88 billion in the three months through March 31, boosted by discounts and promotions that have disrupted an industry dominated by Verizon and AT&T.

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The mobile service provider two-thirds owned by Deutsche Telekom lost $151 million, or 19 cents per share, in the quarter compared with a profit of $107 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier.

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Analysts on average had expected a loss of 19 cents per share on revenue of $6.92 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

T-Mobile added 1.3 million postpaid customers — who pay monthly bills — and 465,000 prepaid customers, who pay for calls in advance.

Customer defections, or churn, for the company's postpaid service was 1.5 percent, down 20 basis points from the fourth quarter and down 40 basis points from a year ago.

T-Mobile started to turn the corner last year, after losing customers for four years, through savvy marketing and well-publicized wireless plans.

The company, which bills itself as the "Uncarrier," launched a series of promotions this year including offering to pay the early termination fees for customers switching from other carriers.

The other major wireless carriers soon followed with some of the most aggressive price cuts the industry has seen, in what some analysts have described as a price war.

By Reuters