Dish in Talks to Merge With T-Mobile US: WSJ

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John Legere
T-Mobile US Inc. CEO John Legere. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Dish Network Corp. is in talks to merge with T-Mobile US Inc., though the purchase price is unresolved, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the negotiations.

John Legere, T-Mobile US’s president and chief executive officer, would take the top role at the combined company, and Dish’s Charlie Ergen would be chairman, according to the Journal report. The companies have a combined market value of about $64 billion, based on their closing prices Wednesday in New York.

Ergen, Dish’s largest shareholder, contacted T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom AG in September about acquiring the U.S. unit, people familiar with the talks said at the time. He has said he’s looking for acquisitions that will help him put a $50 billion stockpile of airwaves to work, and he previously lost a bid for Sprint Corp.

Adding T-Mobile’s estimated 57 million wireless subscribers would help Dish fend off gains in video-streaming customers by Netflix Inc., Hulu and Amazon.com Inc. Dish and T-Mobile had a combined $45 billion in sales and $1.5 billion in profit during the past 12 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Deutsche Telekom shares rose 1.5 percent at 9:15 a.m. in Frankfurt to 15.77 euros, giving the carrier a market value of 71.5 billion euros ($80 billion).

’Shallow Look’

Legere took to Twitter to criticize a story on the Re/code website about the talks as a “shallow look at a rumor.” It “deserves no comment,” he said Thursday. The Re/code article said in part: “A deal between Dish and T-Mobile is akin to two people who hook up because they are the last ones left in the bar at closing time.”

Bob Toevs, a spokesman for Englewood, Colorado-based Dish, and Tolena Thorburn, a spokeswoman for Bellevue, Washington-based T-Mobile, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment outside normal business hours.

Investors are focused on how Ergen plans to revive growth at Dish, which lost 79,000 pay-TV subscribers last year. He is under pressure to merge or partner with a wireless carrier that would help deliver a mobile-based challenger to the pay-TV industry.

There have been more than $700 billion in industry deals by rivals in the last three years as wireless carriers and cable operators rush to add more services. Dish, which also lost the bidding for Clearwire Corp., added spectrum in an auction last month and also started Sling TV, an online service charging $20 a month.

Dish’s shares fell 1.2 percent Wednesday to $70.81 in New York. T-Mobile declined 0.8 percent to $38.33.

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