French carrier Iliad offers to buy T-Mobile U.S.

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French mobile operator Iliad has offered to buy T-Mobile US, the fourth-largest U.S. cellular carrier, in a bid that could complicate an offer reportedly in the works at Sprint.

Iliad confirmed on Wednesday that it has offered $15 billion in cash for 56.6 percent of T-Mobile. Its bid prices the whole company at $36.2 per share, a premium of 42 percent over T-Mobile’s share price on Dec. 12, before speculation about a Sprint bid affected the price, Iliad said.

The bid has the support of Iliad’s board and its founder and majority shareholder, Xavier Niel, the company said. Iliad said it will raise the cash through debt and equity and has the support of international banks to raise the debt.

Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier, has been preparing a bid for T-Mobile for months, according to published reports. Such an offer would probably face a cold reception by U.S. regulators because it would reduce the U.S. mobile market from four to three major competitors.

A takeover by Iliad would not cause that type of consolidation, a point that Iliad made in a press release confirming its interest in making a deal. T-Mobile US is majority owned by the German carrier Deutsche Telekom.

Iliad’s bid could set off a bidding war that might raise the price for T-Mobile.

Iliad is a wired and wireless operator known in France for aggressive pricing and innovative plans. “T-Mobile US has successfully established a disruptive position, which in many ways, is similar to the one Iliad has built in France,” the company said in its press release.

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