T-Mobile, Verizon want to carve up UScellular – WSJ report – Light Reading

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According to a new Wall Street Journal report, T-Mobile is in the final stages of a $2 billion purchase of a chunk of UScellular. Meanwhile, Verizon is eyeing a purchase of some of the remaining parts of UScellular, though that transaction is still in its early stages.

Citing unnamed sources familiar with the deals, the publication noted that neither agreement had been finalized. The report indicated the T-Mobile portion of the deal could be announced later this month.

According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), splitting UScellular between T-Mobile and Verizon could help appease regulators who are uneasy with ongoing consolidation in the US wireless industry.

Indeed, a purchase of part of UScellular by T-Mobile would be that operator’s latest financial adventure in recent weeks. T-Mobile just this month closed on its $1.3 billion purchase of Mint Mobile’s estimated 3 million customers. The operator also announced a joint venture with EQT for fiber operator Lumos.

Further, splitting UScellular and its roughly 5 million mobile customers between T-Mobile and Verizon would also push AT&T farther into third place in the US wireless industry. Verizon remains the nation’s biggest US mobile provider based on number of customers, while T-Mobile entered the second spot following its acquisition of Sprint. UScellular is one of the few large regional wireless network operators left.

No surprise

A sale of UScellular wouldn’t come as a surprise. As WSJ noted, the Carlson family controls TDS, which owns 80% of UScellular. Following investor complaints, TDS put UScellular up for sale last year.

UScellular also owns around 4,000 cell towers, but those reportedly won’t be included in the Verizon or T-Mobile deals.

UScellular’s shares popped following publication of the WSJ article to almost $50 per share. The company’s market cap is $3 billion.

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