AT&T Inc. said Friday that it has agreed to buy a chunk of wireless spectrum from Verizon Wireless for $1.9 billion in cash and some of AT&T’s own spectrum.
The fact that the two companies have struck a deal is interesting, considering that AT&T has been on a spending spree in the past year and has been stocking up on wireless spectrum through dozens of acquisitions meant to help the Dallas-based communications giant better compete with its main competitor: Verizon Wireless. AT&T is the country’s second-largest wireless carrier, behind only Verizon Wireless.
According to Bloomberg, AT&T made roughly two dozen acquisitions in 2012 to build up its spectrum network after the U.S. Department of Justice blocked a proposed $39 billion takeover of rival T-Mobile on antitrust grounds in late 2011. Earlier this week, AT&T agreed to pay $780 million in cash for Atlantic Tele-Network’s U.S. retail wireless operations, a deal that included a collection of spectrum that covers roughly 4.6 million people across six states.
Through its latest deal, AT&T will acquire spectrum licenses covering 42 million people in 18 states from Verizon Wireless. The company said the acquisition will help AT&T meet its goal of delivering 4G LTE services to 300 million people in the United States by the end of next year.
AT&T’s $1.9 billion payment will consist of cash and a collection of spectrum licenses covering certain markets in Arizona, California, and Oregon. The deal is expected to close in the second half of the year, pending regulatory approval.
Sullivan & Cromwell is once again representing longtime client AT&T. S&C also represented the company on its deal with Atlantic Tele-Network earlier this week, and also served as deal counsel on the abandoned T-Mobile takeover attempt. The client relationship goes back roughly two decades.
Los Angeles–based M&A partner Eric Krautheimer is advising AT&T on the deal with Verizon, along with M&A special counsel Lisa Murison, tax special counsel David Passey, and M&A associate Thomas Spahn. D. Wayne Watts serves as AT&T’s general counsel.
On the other side of the deal, Verizon Wireless is relying solely on its in-house legal team to handle the spectrum sale. The Verizon Wireless in-house team includes vice president and deputy general counsel Jonathan Ratner, assistant general counsel Steven Jackman, senior counsel Paul Serber, and assistant general counsel Stephen Heimann advising on corporate matters. Verizon Communications vice president and deputy general counsel John Scott and assistant general counsel Michael Samsock are advising on regulatory matters.
In the past, Verizon Wireless has often turned to Debevoise & Plimpton as its outside transaction counsel, including Verizon’s $3.6 billion purchase of wireless spectrum licenses from a group of cable carriers in 2011. Debevoise also advised Verizon on its $28.1 billion purchase of Alltel in 2008.