AT&T Pushes Back Expected Close of T-Mobile Deal


AT&T (NYS: T) said it now expects its proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA to close by the end of the first half of next year, a few months later than it originally planned, according to a regulatory filing.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, AT&T said the deal will close in the first half of 2012, pending regulatory approval. Previously, AT&T had anticipated seeing the deal closing in March 2012. The Department of Justice sued in August to block the deal on antitrust grounds, and a trial is set to begin Feb. 13. AT&T first announced the deal in late March 2011.

If the merger transaction does fall apart, AT&T will be required to pay T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom a $6 billion breakup fee, which includes $3 billion in cash and $3 billion in spectrum and roaming agreements.

The legal troubles for AT&T grew after U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled on Wednesday that Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) and C Spire Wireless could continue parts of their lawsuit to block the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. While Huvelle threw out many of the claims that Sprint and C Spire, formerly Cellular South, made in their filings, she ruled that the two could continue to pursue claims that the deal will harm the mobile-device marketplace.

Interestingly, AT&T also said in the SEC filing that it now expects its proposed $1.93 billion purchase of Qualcomm's (NAS: QCOM) 700 MHz Media FLO spectrum, which was announced in December 2010, to close by the end of the first quarter of next year, later than its previous expectation for the deal to close by year-end. The FCC needs to approve the license transfer.

In August, the FCC said it would consider the AT&T/Qualcomm transaction side-by-side with the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. Though the FCC did not formally combine the reviews of the two acquisitions, the move was a setback for AT&T and Qualcomm, which argued that the two deals should be evaluated independent of one another.

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