AT&T Reaches Out to Sprint, MetroPCS, Leap on T-Mobile Asset Sales

AT&T (NYS: T) has been in touch with rivals including Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) , MetroPCS (NAS: PCS) and Leap Wireless (NAS: LEAP) to discuss selling spectrum and customers in a bid to save its proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, according to a Bloomberg report.

The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said AT&T has also reached out to CenturyLink and Dish Network, which has plans to build a wireless network based on LTE-Advanced technology. The report said the talks with rivals are preliminary, and the Department of Justice, which has sued AT&T to block the deal, may find the asset sales insufficient. All of the companies involved declined to comment, according to Bloomberg.

Previous reports have indicated that AT&T is exploring up to $8 billion in potential asset sales to appease antitrust regulators at the Justice Department, and that Bank of America is advising AT&T on the asset sales. In the past, both MetroPCS and Leap have expressed interest in the possibility of scooping up potentially divested assets, though Sprint, which is staunchly opposed to the deal, has said there are no concessions that AT&T might give to make it change its mind.

The flurry of activity comes just ahead of a Sept. 21 court date, in which the Justice Department and AT&T are expected to discuss the prospects for a settlement.

On Friday, seven attorneys general filed suit with the Justice Department to block the AT&T and T-Mobile deal. Attorneys general from New York, Washington, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania joined the case, a move that was hailed by public interest groups opposed to the transaction.

For its part, AT&T said it is still looking for an expedited hearing and is also working with the Justice Department to assuage its concerns, but pointed out that 11 other attorneys general have supported the deal.

Separately, AT&T and the Justice Department traded court filings over when a trial should start; AT&T prefers Jan. 16, 2012, while the government wants the trial to start March 19, which would be almost a year to the day since AT&T first announced the deal.

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