The proverbial cat is out of the bag. Verizon is acquiring Alltel for $5.9 billion, plus the assumption of $22.2 billion in debt, a deal that was first reported by CNBC yesterday. “This is a perfect fit, with Alltel’s high-value post-paid customer base, its solid financials, our common network technology, and significant, readily attainable synergies,” says Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg. Alltel serves more than 13 million customers in markets in 34 states, primarily in more rural markets. Verizon expects the deal to close by the end of the year.
As we noted in an earlier post, this deal creates some interesting competitive implications, all of which can’t be examined this quickly. The deal seems to have come together really fast. There must have been some motivated principals. The Wall Street Journal reports that the previous buyers of Alltel were anxious to sell because their original leveraged buyout terms were becoming increasingly “ugly.” They are basically breaking even on the deal, and avoiding potential losses, because the complex debt transactions of the original buy out are now coming back to haunt them because of the credit crisis in the U.S. economy. The new outcome, if it passes regulatory muster, will create the largest wireless carrier in North America, with 80 million or so subscribers. By our estimation, Verizon, the quintessential traditional wireline telephone company, will now have double the number of wireless subscribers, compared to its wireline access lines (40 million as of their last quarterly report). Perhaps we should start thinking of Verizon as a wireless company with some wireline assets, as opposed to the opposite.