SoftBank, Iliad still eyeing T-Mobile deal, reports say

Wireless consolidation may be taking a breather, but interest in T-Mobile appears to remain strong.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
2 min read

T-Mobile CEO John Legere. T-Mobile

T-Mobile may still be in play.

Although Sprint looks to be abandoning plans to buy the wireless carrier, Sprint's parent company SoftBank remains interested in an eventual Sprint and T-Mobile tie-up, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Additionally, a person familiar with Iliad, a French telecommunications company, told the publication that the company plans to forge ahead with its bid for a majority stake in T-Mobile.

The reports show that despite the sudden change in Sprint's effort to take over T-Mobile, the wireless carrier remains an attractive target for companies looking to either bulk up or enter the US. Still, investors were expecting an offer from Sprint. Now that a bid won't be coming anytime soon, T-Mobile shares are trading down nearly 9 percent Wednesday at around $31 each.

Citing a person close to SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, the Journal said Son hasn't yet given up on acquiring T-Mobile and wants to wait until his bargaining position or the regulatory climate improves. Separately, a person familiar with Iliad told the publication Iliad's offer "looks better than it did yesterday," now that Sprint's bid collapsed.

"The offer is still there, and it is good," the person familiar with Iliad told the Journal.

Representatives for SoftBank and Iliad didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. A T-Mobile representative didn't have an immediate comment.

Iliad last week confirmed it made a $15 billion bid for a majority of T-Mobile, but T-Mobile reportedly rejected the offer.

Sprint has been rumored for months to be pursuing an acquisition of T-Mobile, which would have joined together the third and fourth largest wireless companies in the US and potentially provided a stronger competitor against Verizon and AT&T. The Journal reported Tuesday that Sprint walked away from the plan, following stiff opposition from US regulators concerned the deal could increase costs to customers and reduce their choices.

Sprint on Wednesday said it would switch chief executives, naming Marcelo Claure, founder and CEO of wireless supplier Brightstar, and removing Dan Hesse from the position.

For now, Sprint remains in a weakened position, having lost money for years following a disastrous merger with Nextel that left it juggling two different kinds of wireless technology. The company's reputation for network quality remains tarnished as it continues to upgrade its infrastructure.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is poised to overtake Sprint's No. 3 position as T-Mobile keeps up an aggressive and costly effort to gain customers. T-Mobile's increased strength could make a future effort to acquire the company increasingly difficult, or at least more expensive.

T-Mobile's current majority owner Deutsche Telekom, has been trying to offload the company to focus on its core business in Europe.