The world's biggest telecommunications companies are on pace to end the year with the biggest merger and acquisition deals the industry has seen since 2006, as companies compete for a shrinking pool of partners.
Not even halfway through 2013, deals announced by major telecoms already amount to more than $80 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Wednesday. That amount compares with the $157 billion in deals completed in all of 2012 and the $124 billion total from 2011, according to data from Bloomberg News.
Japanese mobile operator Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984) is offering to take over Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S), the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, for $21.6 billion, even as DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH), the second-biggest U.S. satellite-TV carrier has a $25.5 billion counterbid on the table. SoftBank is also eyeing the fourth-largest U.S. mobile company, T Mobile US Inc. (NYSE:TMUS).
Sprint shareholders are scheduled to vote on the deal on June 25.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier and also the telecom with the highest mobile penetration in Europe, is scouting for possible acquisitions as the region still reels from its debilitating debt crisis.
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Meanwhile, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), the largest U.S. wireless carrier, is targeting a bid for Vodafone Group PLC (LON:VOD)'s 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. That deal, potentially worth between $100 billion and $120 billion, could push this year's transaction volume close to the $281.8 billion payload of 2006.
As consumer demand slows for new wireless plans and home Internet services, companies aim to meet emerging demands by building the high-speed networks necessary to carry live media, real-time gaming and video conferencing to the newest mobile devices. Yet they also recognize that they can compete only if they're working with enough revenue to spend on expanding network technology.
"A lot of what you're seeing are companies that don't have a broadband solution trying to find one, or companies that do have a broadband solution trying to get more of it to increase their competitive advantage," Garrett Baker, president of boutique telecom investment bank Waller Capital Partners LLC, told Bloomberg.