T-Mobile has joined Sprint in publicly angling toward a merger.
A week after Sprint chairman Masayoshi Son called a merger with T-Mobile a “first priority,” T-Mobile’s chief financial officer, Braxton Carter, called Sprint “a huge prize” that would be a logical partner in the consolidating telecommunications industry.
“It’s not a question of will talks happen,” Carter told a New York conference audience Thursday. “Of course they’re going to happen.”
A merger would position T-Mobile with Sprint as a much stronger No. 3 carrier behind AT&T and Verizon, Carter said in an audio recording of the conference. Sprint is the fourth-largest carrier in the country.
“By truly creating a third scaled national competitor, you can achieve the margin potential … that both AT&T and Verizon have,” he said. “There is a huge prize when you talk about Sprint.”
Sprint chairman Son expressed his interest in a merger a week ago in a presentation at Tokyo-based SoftBank Group Corp., which Son founded and leads as CEO. SoftBank owns more than 80 percent of Sprint.
“I am open for everything,” Son said, according to SoftBank’s English version of the session. “T-Mobile would be, in the orthodox manner, the first priority, and I would like to be very sincere in trying to start a negotiation.”
The merger talks caught fire again among jockeying companies when a federal ban against strategic talks lifted in April.
Sprint has been seen as being the more eager participant in merger talks, but T-Mobile’s Carter called the options with Sprint exciting.
“Sprint has a treasure trove of 2.5 (GHz) spectrum,” he said, referring to Sprint’s high-band spectrum. “You can do amazing things with the synergy that comes from putting these two networks together.”
The merger talks had been quelled under the Obama administration, which had made clear it preferred the four major carriers option. But the quiet period for discussions expired, and the merger talks have taken on renewed vigor with anticipation that the Trump administration may take a more open position on industry mergers.
Just as Son said he’s keeping Sprint’s options wide open, Carter also said T-Mobile is playing a large field of options.
“Could there be an advantage turbocharging (T-Mobile’s) challenger position by acquiring or combining some way? Absolutely,” he said. “But we’ll only pursue that when we do the work. The movie’s still playing out.”