Telecommunications giant AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) has had enough for the moment, they’ve asked the referee for a one month timeout. The referee of course is the Judge Huvelle, who is overseeing the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit opposing their propowed purchase of T-Mobile USA. She has granted a joint motion giving AT&T one month to decide just what to do next.
So if you’re on AT&T’s regulatory and legal time, you’re probably going to have a working Christmas holiday as January 12 isn’t that far off when you just count the business days. The DOJ had been planning to ask the judge to dismiss or delay the trial altogether on the grounds that AT&T’s withdrawal of its FCC application implied the deal is already dead and certainly doesn’t merit an accelerated schedule.
So what next? Speculation over the next four weeks will surely center on the shape of a potentially reconstructed, more limited deal that AT&T may push as an alternative come January 12. But while AT&T has been adamant about pursuing the deal in some form come hell or high water, I think that there’s a significant chance that they will reconsider entirely. The opposition is just too entrenched, the atmosphere too politicized, and the chances too slim. Time to regroup, and maybe see if they can milk a bit of sympathy as the aggrieved party burdened by unnecessary government intervention.
As for Deutsche Telecom AG (ETR:DTE, news, filings), I wonder whether their obligatory ‘we have no plan B’ support of the deal will hold all the way through the month. The sector has changed since last March, and they may have alternatives they didn’t have before that they would rather start pursuing now rather than wait for AT&T to line up another target for regulators to shoot at.
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