What if you had an auction and everybody showed up? It used to be that way, but for the last year it has been quite the opposite. Here in the US, Qwest's possible longhaul sale was met with the sound of crickets chirping - at least at the price they wanted. Tiscali practically had to beg to find a buyer for its UK unit, and it only managed to sell its international backbone (now TINet) for pocket change. But T-Mobile UK? First it was Vodafone Group (NYSE:VOD, news, filings) planning a bid. Then we've got Orange (France Telecom (NYSE:FTE, news, filings)) sniffing around. Soon thereafter, O2 of Telefonica (NYSE:TEF, news, filings) wants a piece of the action.
Now, mobile networks have been a bit more popular lately, that may explain the sudden frenzy. The prospect of an improving economy and melting credit markets can't hurt either. But the real reason is that there are too many wireless players at the ball, but not enough that everyone can find a partner to dance with. Those that find a partner will grow in size and stature, and those who don't will not. Growing bigger is a core component of human nature - just ask pro athletes about steroids - and the race to be the biggest is always the one that gets the most coverage. That doesn't mean it is advisable of course, just ask pro athletes about steroids again after they retire. But for the suitors of T-Mobile UK, that is probably a worry for another day and perhaps another CEO.
Also intriguing to me was the speculation by Ray Le Maistre over on LightReading that the next suitor to come out of the woodwork will be British Telecom (NYSE:BT, news, filings) itself. That would certainly add some spice to the dish, though it wouldn't exactly be 'consolidation'. The more the merrier though - makes it more interesting.
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