DT, Sprint Mull "Quadruple Play" Network Nightmare
To some, Sprint’s longstanding reputation for lousy customer service, poor network coverage, high churn and Keystone Kops-style management disorganization might be a bit–how can I put this delicately–off-putting. The beleaguered company’s subscriber numbers are dropping like failed calls, as are its shares. Sprint’s stock price has fallen nearly 60% over the past 12 months. It posted a $29.6 billion loss for 2007 and has had its debt rating cut to junk by Standard & Poor’s.
Not the most attractive of acquisition targets. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in this case T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom (DT) which is reportedly considering a bid for the wireless outfit, whose worsening losses have left it ripe for a buyout. By swallowing Sprint (S), DT could gain some spectrum in the States and stave off a price war between the mobile carriers, or so the “thinking” goes.
Thing is, an acquisition of Sprint entails an acquisition of Sprint’s problems–and there are many. It would also require DT, which operates a GSM/EDGE network, to manage Sprint’s 3G CDMA network and Nextel’s legacy iDEN system. That’s three different network standards. And then there’s Sprint’s WiMax operation, XHOM, to deal with. That’s the makings of a real Greek tragedy of a business story right there. Said Avian Securities analyst Matthew Thornton, “While the differing network technology standard does not necessarily eliminate the possibility of a deal, it does significantly raise the costs and complexity of the combination.”
Michael Nelson, an analyst at Stanford Group, agreed. “You really cannot underestimate the level of complexity that that entails,” he told Bloomberg. “There is a significant amount of integration risk.”