What’s behind the radio silence on Sprint’s T-Mobile takeover

Get it together.
Get it together.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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It’s no secret that Sprint—or more specifically its majority shareholder, the Japanese telecom SoftBank—wants to buy T-Mobile US.

Back in March, SoftBank’s chief executive, Masayoshi Son, went on national television and held a high-profile presentation in Washington, where he outlined his ambitions to unite America’s third- and fourth-biggest wireless carriers. Last month, in multiple media reports, details about the size and structure of the transaction filtered out. Today, the Wall Street Journal’s (paywall) Ryan Knutson even has details on negotiators’ secret code names for the deal (“Project Oregon”), and for the various participating actors (“Sprint is the Swan; T-Mobile, the Tiger. The Hawk represents SoftBank Corp, Sprint’s parent; and the Dove is [T-Mobile’s parent] Deutsche Telekom AG,” he writes).

Yet there was no mention of T-Mobile at all on Sprint’s earnings call this morning. There probably won’t be when T-Mobile (whose colorful CEO John Legere is the presumptive leader of the combined entity) reports its quarterly numbers tomorrow.

It’s an unusual situation. Typically you don’t hear intricate details about transactions of this magnitude until after they are actually agreed by the companies involved, but this is no ordinary deal. US regulators have already signaled their strong opposition to anything that would reduce the number of carriers operating in the country. They did, after all, block AT&T’s attempt to acquire T-Mobile back in 2011.

But there might be another (very European) reason for the deal being in stasis: summer vacation. As the Journal’s Knutson writes:

Deutsche Telekom’s top mergers and acquisition advisor took a vacation in South America and CEO Timotheus Höttges is in Costa Rica, making it all but impossible to finalize some important decisions, people familiar with the matter said.

So it looks like we might have to wait until after the summer is over for more concrete details on this transaction to finally emerge.