Although many analysts and other telecommunications experts have left the AT&T/T-Mobile merger for dead, AT&T is working to make sure the fat lady doesn't sing yet.
The Dallas-based corporation is looking to sell some of its assets to San-Diego based Leap Wireless in an effort to gain approval from regulators for the merger, according to a New York Times report. No information about which assets would be sold were reported.
AT&T executives hope that even if the sale doesn't sway regulators, it could at least help AT&T once it goes to trial. Lawyers involved in the discussion estimate a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of a successful sale.
Efforts by IBTimes to reach Leap Wireless haven't been returned. AT&T declined to comment on the matter.
AT&T announced in March its intention to purchase T-Mobile USA, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, for $39 billion in cash and stock. However, the proposal between the two carriers immediately received criticism, with opponents worried that AT&T's share of the wireless market would become too large.
One opponent is the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed suit against the merger in August. The Justice Department argues the deal would limit consumer choice, increase prices and reduce service quality.The trial is expected to begin Feb. 13.
Similarly, Sprint Nextel and regional carrier C-Spire Wireless have filed their own lawsuits against the merger.
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, last week called for an administrative hearing on the merger. Since then, AT&T has requested its merger application be withdrawn, but the company has said it plans to continue to fight the battle in court.
Despite this, AT&T has said it plans to set aside $4 billion in the fourth quarter in order to cover a breakup fee to Deutsche Telekom. This includes $3 billion in cash and $1 billion in spectrum.
This isn't the first time speculation of an asset sale has arisen. There was previous talk about Richardson, Texas based MetroPCS, the fifth largest wireless carrier in the U.S., purchasing AT&T assets.
Leap, which has approximately 7 million customers, opposes the merger in its current form. MetroPCS hasn't stated opposition to the deal, although it has expressed concern about the effects of the merger.
The assets that AT&T would sell off likely wouldn't be needed anyway once a merger was completed, Frost & Sullivan analyst Todd Day told IBTimes. Towers, spectrum space and other equipment where AT&T and T-Mobile both have solid coverage would likely be the assets sold, while AT&T may keep assets where coverage is weaker with one of the two carriers.
I don't think it (an asset sale) would make much of a difference, Day said with regards to AT&T's market power after a merger.
AT&T is still looking to get more market share while trying to pass muster with regulators, independent telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan told IBTimes. Although he said he hasn't reviewed AT&T's arguments for a sale, he believes selling assets to a small wireless company wouldn't necessarily soothe concerns about a wireless duopoly between AT&T and Verizon.
I think AT&T is moving in the right direction, Kagan said of an asset sale. But I don't think it is enough.
Shares of AT&T are up 0.95 percent to $28.22 at late-morning trading. Shares of Leap are up 1.63 percent to $7.80.