T-Mobile stock rises as Sprint parent says it’s eager to start merger talks

The shares of the U.S. wireless carriers surged Wednesday, as investors bet a deal may finally happen under the Trump administration’s looser regulatory climate. Sprint’s stock later gave up its gains; T-Mobile ended the day up 0.8 percent.

SoftBank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son’s remarks that he wants to restart merger talks between his Sprint unit and T-Mobile US sent the shares of the U.S. wireless carriers surging Wednesday, as investors bet a deal may finally happen under the Trump administration’s looser regulatory climate.

Son, who became one of the world’s wealthiest men by turning Tokyo-based SoftBank into a telecommunications and technology powerhouse, sees a merger with Bellevue-based T-Mobile as critical to creating a more robust competitor in a U.S. wireless business led by Verizon Communications and AT&T.

The billionaire considered buying T-Mobile before, but abandoned the effort when officials at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department signaled they would oppose such a deal. Now, with Donald Trump in the White House, almost everything is on the table for the nation’s cable, telecommunications and media CEOs.

“Basically anything is possible. But I think the No. 1 favorite, the quickest route to synergy, is the option that we pursued from the start — T-Mobile,” Son told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday. “However, it’s also up to the other side and whatever conditions they may have. Therefore, if there are other opportunities for industry consolidation that offer better conditions, of course we want to consider them with an open mind.”

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Representatives for Sprint didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. T-Mobile declined to comment.

T-Mobile stock initially rose as much as 3.3 percent Wednesday while Sprint climbed 2.8 percent, but they both gave up their gains in later trading. T-Mobile stock closed at $66, up 0.8 percent, while Sprint slid 0.3 percent to $7.88.

SoftBank owns more than 80 percent of Sprint after acquiring the majority stake in 2013, part of Son’s famed plan to build a business empire that can endure through the centuries.

Sprint is showing some signs of recent success, but the company is mired in debt and hasn’t turned a profit in about a decade. T-Mobile, meanwhile, is the fastest-growing wireless carrier in the U.S., using promotions, price cuts and social-media marketing to lure customers from Verizon and AT&T.

Any deal involving T-Mobile would need the backing of Deutsche Telekom, which owns about 65 percent of the U.S. carrier. T-Mobile has become the main earnings and growth driver for the German parent in the past years, transforming from a unit that CEO Tim Hoettges eyed to sell to one he has called his “kingmaker asset.” Deutsche Telekom declined to comment on Son’s comments Wednesday.

Merger talks in the wireless industry have been on hold for…

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