Regulators gave themselves more time to review AT&T Inc.’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA Inc., citing new economic assessments from AT&T about the deal’s public benefits.
The Federal Communications Commission stopped the clock yesterday on its 180-day informal timeline to complete the review of the acquisition, according to a letter posted on its website. The FCC expects to receive AT&T’s new assessments on July 25 and will restart the clock once the information has been received and third parties “have a meaningful opportunity to comment on the submission,” the letter said.
If completed, the merger, which was proposed March 20, would combine the second- and fourth-largest carriers to create a new market leader, ahead of current No. 1 Verizon Wireless. The FCC and the Justice Department are vetting the deal.
“AT&T has developed additional economic evidence that further confirms the tremendous efficiencies and consumer benefits resulting from this transaction,” AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said in an e-mail.
Because the information is detailed, “we are not surprised that the FCC will take the time it needs to thoroughly understand our submission,” Balmoris said, adding that the company does not expect it will “adversely impact the timeframe for approval of our transaction.”
Concerns are building among some U.S. lawmakers that the deal may harm wireless competition. Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust matters, said the transaction would further consolidate an “already highly concentrated market” in a letter yesterday to Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski.
In a separate letter yesterday to Holder and Genachowski, Democratic Representatives Edward Markey of Massachusetts, John Conyers of Michigan and Anna Eshoo of California said the deal “raises serious questions regarding the future competitiveness of the wireless industry.”
Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment.