Domestic telecom staple AT&T is reportedly looking to inject some international flavor through a potential acquisition of an European-based operator.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T is looking at picking up a “counterpart in Europe” as a way to expand opportunities into new wireless markets, citing those always reliable “people familiar with the carrier’s thinking.” Those sources claim a deal could come before the end of the year, though potential targets were not named.
In 2001, AT&T Mobility’s previous incarnation as AT&T Wireless Services garnered a $9.8 billion investment from Japan’s NTT DoCoMo for a 16% stake in the wireless carrier. That investment was eventually returned at a slight loss to DoCoMo following AWS’ $41 billion acquisition by Cingular Wireless that eventually morphed into the present-day AT&T Mobility.
A deal of this sort would place AT&T on equal footing with many of its domestic rivals that currently are either allied with an international power or in the process of completing such a partnership.
Verizon Wireless, which is AT&T Mobility’s largest domestic rival, is a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group, which controls 45% of the wireless entity. Verizon Wireless has over the past two years thrown off more than $18 billion in dividends to its parent companies.
Sprint Nextel is in the midst of selling off a 70% stake to Japan’s Softbank for $20 billion in an attempt to bolster its presence in the ultra-competitive domestic market. That deal also sparked Sprint Nextel’s current $2.2 billion acquisition attempt of partner Clearwire.
T-Mobile USA is currently 100% controlled by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, which acquired the then VoiceStream Wireless for $35 billion. T-Mobile USA is currently in the process of acquiring MetroPCS, which will result in DT downgrading its controlling stake in that joint venture to 76%.
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