Verizon Wireless continues acquisition spree

The recently created company--a combination of four major carriers--adds Price Communications for $2 billion in stock and debt assumption.

In telecommunications nowadays, the big just keep getting bigger.

Verizon Wireless, born earlier this year from a combination of four major industry players, announced Wednesday that it is acquiring Price Communications' wireless subsidiary and its 500,000 customers for just more than $1.5 billion in Verizon Wireless stock, with a debt assumption of $500 million.

The acquisition adds to Verizon's growing stature among the leading national wireless carriers, which are seeking to meet increasing demands for service both through acquisitions of existing systems and through government-sponsored auctions of available airwaves.

Price brings with it four southern states--Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina--with coverage of 3.4 million people in 16 markets. Bell see story: Verizon who? Atlantic Mobile, one of the four primary components of Verizon Wireless, didn't have coverage in the South, but the new company now has national coverage with the additions of AirTouch Cellular, PrimeCo and GTE Wireless.

Verizon Wireless recently postponed a $5 billion initial public offering, citing poor market conditions. It said that the acquisition could be stopped by either party if that IPO isn't completed by Sept. 30, 2001.

Price, like AT&T Wireless, uses time division multiple access (TDMA) technology, but Verizon Wireless said it will convert the systems to code division multiple access (CDMA) immediately following the deal's closure.

Prime is known to its customers as Cellular One, and that name will be dropped from the service and its 41 retail stores after the deal is complete, Verizon said.