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Deutsche Telekom buys US operator

18 сентября 2007

Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s largest telephone group, underlined its determination to do business in the US on Monday by paying $2.4bn for SunCom Wireless, a mobile phone operator in south-east US.

In the spring, René Obermann, DT chief executive, pledged to expand DT’s T-Mobile in existing markets, including the US, in response to falling sales in its domestic fixed-line business.
In June, DT agreed to buy France Telecom’s Dutch mobile unit for €1.3bn ($1.8bn), a move pending approval from Orange Netherlands’ works council.
The Bonn-based company has been shaken by client flight in Germany as customers ditch old-style phone connections for broadband and mobile phones – services DT rivals have been able to offer far more cheaply.
DT’s two largest shareholders, the German government with 32 per cent and Blackstone private equity with 5 per cent, in November installed Mr Obermann to push through cost cuts and shepherd growth abroad.
In the acquisition of SunCom, T-Mobile USA will pay $1.6bn in cash and assume $800m in debt in order to boost its client base by 1.1m to more than 28m. This represents about one quarter of T-Mobile’s 113m-plus customers worldwide.
Instead of relying on roaming agreements, T-Mobile will now be able to serve directly customers in four south-eastern states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands – and so gain access to 98 of the top 100 markets in the country.
However, this will do little to close the gap on T-Mobile’s three larger US rivals, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, which have been buying regional US service providers. AT&T has 61m customers, more than twice the number that T-Mobile USA will have after this deal.
Mr Obermann has said that the US can stomach a fourth player, especially one stressing service rather than size. “This acquisition will fit perfectly with our strategy to grow abroad with mobile,” he said in a statement.
DT agreed to pay SunCom investors $27 per share, 23 per cent more than the stock’s closing price on Friday. The US company’s share price leapt 17 per cent at the start of US trading to settle at about $26 level in mid-morning trade on Monday. DT’s share price was flat at €13.70.
DT took a close look at Telecom Italia’s mobile unit TIM when it almost went on sale last year – but Mr Obermann has stressed DT’s current focus on curing its domestic ills.

Источник: Financial Times

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