On Google Buying Sprint

December 9th, 2009 by · 1 Comment

Over on Infoworld there is a long article extolling the virtues of a merger between Google and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S, news, filings) that is worth a read.  The basic argument is that by getting its hands dirty with an actual mobile network, Google could bring about the change that it so clearly wants.  What change is that?  Why an open, data-centric, mobile future for everyone of course.  In the past I have come down on the skeptical side regarding Google's likely M&A hunger in Telecom, I generally feel that Google is much more interested in prodding others than in taking ownership itself.  

However, if Google were going to do something like this, then I would certainly admit that Sprint is probably the likeliest of all targets.  You see, Google isn't likely to care about fiber because the structure of the industry allows them to influence wireline telecom from afar.  But wireless is different, there are only 4 in the US with national scope, and three are owned by companies that Google has little influence over.  So if they felt the need, Sprint would be the lever they would have to use.

But I still don't think Infoworld's scenario will happen for the simple reason that the motivation behind it is not Google's.  You see, we who follow the industry closely are destined to be continually frustrated.  We see the future so close at hand, with grand dreams of the breakthroughs to come if only those big companies will make it happen.  Yet it always takes so much longer than we expect for the infrastructure to be built than the powerpoint slides seemed to promise.  When it comes down to it, building takes time and lots of it.

What does this have to do with Google?  Google is simply a convenient vehicle into which we can stuff all those dreams, a corporate hero that is impatient when it comes to an all-data future that has enough cash and cash flow to do pretty much whatever it wants.  Or more specifically, what we want.  The need to see Google buy Sprint comes from the perspective of neither company's shareholders, but from the frustration derived from the slow rollout of 4G and the mobile data revolution that pundits have been salivating over for years now.  Google could just step in, spend its cash, work its operational genius, say 'abracadabra' and we would be there in no time.

And the economics?  Well all you need is a long term vision, the ability to look beyond a few measly quarters, and everything will turn out fine.  Barring the invention of googlecrystalball.com, what this requires is a leap of faith.  Now I'm not against leaps of faith, even with shareholder money - they happen more often than many would admit.  But why would Google need to take that leap of faith with a Sprint acquisition when there is already someone out there in mid-air?  Yes, I mean clwr, into which both Sprint and Google have put money.  They're building out as fast as anyone could reasonably manage it, so we're just going to have to be patient while they do it.

Categories: Mergers and Acquisitions · Wireless

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  • carlk says:

    Sprint CEO sees keeping majority Clearwire stake 12/09 01:55 PM

    NEW YORK, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Dan Hesse, the chief executive of Sprint Nextel Corp (S:$3.975,0$-0.155,0-3.75%) said he would not let the company’s stake in Clearwire Corp (CLWR:$5.78,00$0.05,000.87%) go below 50 percent in response to a question about whether the venture would be involved in consolidation.
    “I would find it hard for me to imagine a situation where we would let our ownership go below 50 percent,” Hesse said in response to a question at a UBS investor conference.
    Sprint (S:$3.975,0$-0.155,0-3.75%) has a roughly 55 percent ownership in Clearwire (CLWR:$5.78,00$0.05,000.87%) , on which it is depending for offering the next generation of wireless data services. Other investors in Clearwire (CLWR:$5.78,00$0.05,000.87%) include cable providers Comcast Corp (CMCSA:$17.57,00$0.03,000.17%) and Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC:$42.6900,$-0.5700,-1.32%) , as well as Google Inc (GOOG:$593.27,00$4.25,000.72%) and Intel Corp (INTC:$20.08,00$0.07,000.35%) .
    The question came amid a backdrop of speculation about whether Sprint (S:$3.975,0$-0.155,0-3.75%) itself could become an acquisition target for Deutsche Telekom AG (DT:$14.909,0$-0.031,0-0.21%) .
    Hesse declined comment when asked at the conference about two analyst reports that pegged the chances of a DT and Sprint (S:$3.975,0$-0.155,0-3.75%) deal occurring at either 2 percent or 55 percent. (Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Andre Grenon)

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