Report: Dish in Talks With T-Mobile

Journal Says Parties Agree on Structure, But Apart on Price
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Dish Network is reportedly in talks to merge with No. 4 wireless carrier T-Mobile, a deal that would appear to mirror rival satellite giant DirecTV’s pending merger with telco AT&T, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Citing people familiar with the talks, the Journal reported that Dish and T-Mobile were together on the possible structure of a deal, which would give Dish chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen becoming chairman of the combined company while T-Mobile CEO John Legere would become CEO of the new entity.

Dish spokesman John Hall said the company does not comment on rumor and speculation.

The two companies are not that close on price, according to the Journal, which said the talks are in the “formative stage.”

T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom has been in at least three failed deals to sell off its U.S. unit in the past four years, starting with its proposed $39 billion merger with AT&T that was rejected by federal regulators in 2011.  Sprint, the third largest wireless company in the country also considered buying T-Mobile, but backed off when it became apparent that regulators wouldn’t sign off on that deal either.   

Dish, which controls a large swath of wireless spectrum itself, has been looking for a partner to build out its spectrum.  In 2013 Dish made a $25 billion offer for the nation’s third largest wireless carrier, Sprint, but was bested by a $21.6 billion offer from Japanese wireless company Softbank. For a majority stake in the carrier.

T-Mobile has also been on the satellite giant’s radar for years.

According to Investor’s Business Daily, Ergen praised T-Mobile’s network design at a recent analyst meeting. The paper recently cited a report by Evercore ISI analyst Jonathan Schildkraut, who wrote in a recent client note that Ergen’s comments signal that "T-Mobile is a more likely partner than Sprint, should Dish choose the partnership route."