James Hyde, CEO of Virginia-based nTelos Holdings Corp, has told Bloomberg that his company is in a prime position in the wake of AT&T Inc’s surprise USD1.2 billion takeover of Leap Wireless International. AT&T’s offer for Leap represented an 88% premium over the pre-paid operator’s market value, and Hyde believes that the deal boosts the value of nTelos Wireless – one of the few regional mobile operators yet to have been swallowed up by a ‘Tier 1’ player. ‘These transactions are being done at increased valuations. That’s always a good thing when you are a public company like nTelos. Just the mere fact that we provide wholesale services – clearly, we have got a strategic set of assets,’ he said. However, Hyde declined to address widespread speculation centred on whether or not the company is currently in talks to be acquired.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, a number of significant US wireless deals have already been unveiled this year, most notably T-Mobile US’s acquisition of MetroPCS, which closed in early May, boosting the former’s subscriber total by around nine million pre-paid customers. Also in May, Sprint confirmed that it had closed its USD480 million acquisition of a number of markets from Chicago-based US Cellular. The deal included operations in Chicago, St Louis and a handful of markets in the Midwest, as well as spectrum assets in the 1.9GHz band. The deal included around 420,000 subscribers. Previously, in January this year AT&T signed an agreement with Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc (ATNI) to acquire the company’s US retail operations, which are operated under the ‘Alltel’ brand, for USD780 million in cash. The deal, which includes just under 600,000 subscriber accounts, is expected to be finalised in the second half of 2013.
When the dust settles around AT&T’s deals with ATNI and Leap, only one ‘Tier 2’ mobile operator (US Cellular, 5.74 million subscribers in 1Q13) and a handful of prominent regional players will remain, notably, C Spire (formerly Cellular South), which has an estimated 900,000 subscribers, nTelos (451,000 customers) and Cincinnati Bell (385,000).