The pressure’s on John Legere to keep T-Mobile US Inc. on the comeback trail after a third suitor walked away in as many years.
Iliad SA on Monday scrapped its offer to buy a majority stake in T-Mobile, joining Overland Park-based Sprint Corp. and AT&T Inc. in failing to secure a takeover of the smallest of the four major U.S. wireless carriers.
Board members of Deutsche Telekom AG, which owns two-thirds of T-Mobile, have been split over whether the German carrier should sell its only growing asset, people familiar with the matter said last month.
That’s just fine with Chief Executive Officer Legere, if his recent comments are any guide. In a profanity-laced tirade earlier this month, Legere said he was “sick and tired” of deal speculation. He also said there are a number of ways for T- Mobile to be a growing, profitable company without being acquired. He’s been winning over customers so far, and for shareholders’ sake, he’ll need to keep delivering.
“The company is doing extremely well so I can do whatever...I want,” Legere said, when asked about his relationship with Deutsche Telekom.
For now, Legere has numbers to back him up. T-Mobile added 2.68 million monthly subscribers in the first half of the year, making it the fastest-growing U.S. wireless carrier, as its popular shared wireless plans without contracts lure customers and force other carriers to lower their prices. Legere has forecast that T-Mobile will surpass Sprint in total subscribers by the end of this year.
“They’re doing a really nice job competing against the incumbent carriers right now,” said Michael Bowen, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, said . “Their offers are resonating with subscribers, and I think they’re better off independent at this point.”
Anne Marshall, a spokeswoman for T-Mobile, declined to comment after Iliad dropped its bid for 67 percent of T-Mobile that valued the stock at $36 a share including cost savings. Iliad said that Deutsche Telekom had spurned the improved offer.
“We have a clear standalone case in the U.S.,” said Andreas Leigers, a spokesman for Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom. “We’re in an environment where the company is growing and very healthy.” Leigers declined to comment on speculation about a sale.
T-Mobile has done a good job understanding what consumers are looking for, including more simplified pricing plans, said Kevin Smithen, an analyst at Macquarie Securities USA Inc.
In an Oct. 10 research note, Mike McCormack, an analyst with Jefferies Group LLC, said T-Mobile’s stock is worth at least $35, even without an acquisition.
“T-Mobile continues to deliver disproportional subscriber growth over larger peers,” McCormack wrote, adding that momentum may accelerate into the fourth quarter thanks to Apple Inc.’s new iPhone and the holiday season. “We expect T-Mobile to have ample runway for growth.”
T-Mobile has projected that it will add 3 million to 3.5 million monthly subscribers this year. T-Mobile had record monthly customer gains in August and was adding four users for every one that left for Sprint during the third quarter, Legere said a month ago. In terms of total customers, including prepaid, T-Mobile had 51 million at the end of June, trailing Sprint’s 55 million.
T-Mobile, based in Bellevue, Wash., recorded its first profit in five quarters at the end of June, getting a boost thanks to a $731 million gain from a spectrum transaction. Even without that one-time benefit, T-Mobile is projected to report third-quarter net income of $39 million, the average estimate of analysts compiled by Bloomberg.