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AT&T’s last grasp at T-Mobile deal coming up short on buyers

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AT&T is scrambling to find ways to modify its proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile to it can win the approval of regulators at the FCC and the Department of Justice. The company’s latest tactic is to try to divest assets of T-Mobile USA to other companies in order to slim down the deal — the problem seems to be that nobody is buying.

According to reports in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), and other outlets, talks to sell off parts of T-Mobile to regional wireless operators like Leap Wireless and C Spire have faltered. Unless AT&T can substantially sweeten the deal, it looks like the company will be unable to shed enough of T-Mobile USA’s weight to have any hope of gaining regulators’ approval on the merger, and that may be the strongest sign yet that AT&T will have to give up the idea.

AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile USA would vault the combined carrier to first place among U.S. mobile operators; however, it would also reduce the number of nationwide mobile providers from four to three, a move that both the Justice Department and the FCC found unacceptable. The DOJ sued to “>recommend the deal be blocked because it isn’t in the public interest. AT&T responded swiftly, withdrawing its merger application from the FCC to focus exclusively on the Justice Department case, hoping to recraft the deal in terms that would overcome the DOJ’s objections.

Unfortunately, the only real opening the Justice Department left AT&T to retool that deal was to reduce its impact on competition in the mobile market. That would basically mean AT&T would have to divest itself of enough of T-Mobile’s and it’s own assets to “>might be interested in T-Mobile if the AT&T deal falls through, as Dish works to build out its own satellite-assisted LTE network.

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