Sprint has proposed a merger with cable company Charter Communications, according to an unconfirmed report Friday.
The Wall Street Journal cited sources familiar with the situation but provided no affirmation from either company. Sprint spokesman David Tovar declined to comment.
Previous reports had indicated that Sprint was in talks with Charter and cable giant Comcast in an exclusive two-month window that the Journal said had ended this week. Those reports had not indicated the nature of the discussions.
Sprint has long been considered a natural merger partner for rival wireless carrier T-Mobile US, a deal that would create billions of dollars of costs savings and benefits for their shareholders.
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Friday’s report said that Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son is pursuing a complex transaction with Charter that would combine both businesses under a new publicly traded company. It also said that Son’s Tokyo-based SoftBank Group Corp. would own control of the new company.
SoftBank, which Son founded and heads as its CEO, owns more than 80 percent of Sprint.
Sprint, however, is a smaller company than Charter. The cable giant had $10.4 billion in revenues in its most recent quarter and employs 91,500. Sprint plans to report its most recent quarterly results next week. Its revenues in the previous quarter totaled $8.5 billion, and it employs 28,000.
Merger talks between Sprint and Charter likely would include media titan John Malone, whose Liberty Media Corp. is the largest shareholder of Charter.
“Liberty has to be in the deal,” said Berge Ayvazian, an industry consultant with Wireless 20/20 .
Two weeks ago, there were unconfirmed reports that Son had chatted with Malone and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett at an executive retreat in Idaho. Details about those discussions did not emerge, but Friday’s report gives them new meaning.
“There’s a lot of players now, and they’re all being moved around,” Ayvazian said.
Speculation about a rash of mergers and deals in the telecommunications world had focused on Sprint, though mostly as a partner with T-Mobile.
Son had said in February that Sprint could be a buyer or a seller in pursuing a deal, or that it might merge as an equal. He also had said that Sprint’s options included partners other than T-Mobile.
In May, Son had said Sprint was ready to consider deals but that the company could take its time as it also could continue to operate on its own.
Merger speculation also had paired cable companies with wireless carriers, with perhaps Comcast or Charter acquiring Sprint or T-Mobile. This summer, Comcast began to offer wireless service of its own under an agreement that allows it to buy access to Verizon’s wireless network.
The Journal’s report said it remained uncertain whether Charter would accept the merger proposal from Sprint.