AT&T Poised to Buy European Operator By End of Year

By Craig Galbraith Comments
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**Editor's Note: Please click here  for a recap of the biggest channel-impacting mergers in Q4 2012 or here for the biggest M&A during that time in the service provider-BSS/OSS spaces.**

Might AT&T look to buy a wireless operator in Europe?

America's second-largest carrier tried to take T-Mobile USA off Deutsche Telekom's hands a year ago, but crumbled under pressure from watchdog groups concerned about the creation of a wireless duopoly in the U.S. (Verizon Wireless being the other giant). AT&T scrapped that plan in late 2011 after the Justice Department expressed concerns that the future of a competitive wireless marketplace would be in doubt.

So with few significant merger opportunities in the States for Ma Bell in the States, perhaps the carrier can cross the pond for an answer. That's exactly what's happening, sources tell the Wall Street Journal, and a deal could get done by the end of the year.

AT&T would definitely have its hands full with such a decision. While the company could upgrade technology and institute pricing strategies that would perhaps be more profitable, the European market is widely considered to be more competitive than the U.S., and dealing with regulators in that part of the world is a completely different animal, the Journal noted.

Big telcos in the U.K., the Netherlands or Germany might be the most likely targets, "people familiar with the matter" said.

Competition at home is increasing for AT&T. SoftBank of Japan recently announced plans to buy 70 percent of Sprint, a move that helped America's third-largest carrier make a bid for the half of Clearwire – the spectrum-rich broadband provider – that it doesn't already own. The fourth-biggest U.S. operator, T-M0bile, is getting regulatory approval for its buy of MetroPCS, the fifth-biggest.

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