Sprint Jumps Amid Speculation It Will Merge With T-Mobile

Dec 27, 2013 4:24 pm ET

(Updates shares starting in first paragraph.)

Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Sprint Corp., the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, jumped 8.3 percent amid speculation that the company is getting closer to merging with rival T-Mobile US Inc.

The stock rose to $10.79 in New York, marking the biggest one-day gain since Japan’s SoftBank Corp. acquired majority control of the Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier in July. The shares have almost doubled since that transaction closed.

A Sprint deal with T-Mobile would unite the third- and fourth-largest mobile-phone services in the U.S., creating a stronger competitor to Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. It also might curb T-Mobile’s price-cutting tactics, leading to a healthier industry, said Jennifer Fritzsche, an analyst at Wells Fargo & Co. in Chicago.

“Part of the plan all along has been for these two -- No. 3 and No. 4 -- to come together,” she said in an interview with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop.” That suggests that the latest deal speculation may be valid, said Fritzsche, who has the equivalent of a buy rating on Sprint shares. “I very much think, where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

According to people familiar with the matter, SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son has held discussions with banks about financing a T-Mobile deal. The plan would be to take control of T-Mobile by paying cash for the 67 percent stake owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, said the people. Sprint would then be integrated with T-Mobile.

Scott Sloat, a spokesman for Sprint, declined to comment.

--Editors: Nick Turner, John Lear