An antitrust lawsuit over the proposed mega-merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is now in the hands of a federal judge after an attorney for more than a dozen states called the deal “presumptively anticompetitive.”
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero of New York heard final arguments Wednesday in the trial over a merger that would form a third national wireless giant alongside Verizon and AT&T.
T-Mobile and Sprint want to “create a new, world class network with lower costs and better service for consumers,” David Gelfand, an attorney for the companies, told the judge, adding that “the world with the merger holds tremendous promise to revolutionize the industry.”
But Glenn Pomerantz, the lead counsel for the states, argued the merger was “presumptively anticompetitive” and that the remedies proposed to address its effects — including the sale of Sprint’s prepaid business and some wireless spectrum to Dish Network — were inadequate.
If T-Mobile and Sprint merge, consumers would be “at risk for paying billions of dollars more every single year” for wireless services, he said.
Witnesses in the trial included former Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, T-Mobile CEO John Legere, and Dish CEO Charlie Ergen.
“Many investors believe that the case hinges on Charlie Ergen’s ability to establish himself and Dish as a viable and credible fourth wireless competitor,” analyst Walt Piecyk at Lightshed Partners wrote in a client note. “We believe he did that … under cross examination.”
Pomerantz pointed out in his closing argument that even if Dish does enter the wireless market, it will take years to build its own network and establish a customer base anywhere near where Sprint’s is now.
He also rejected the companies’ claim that Sprint will cease to be a meaningful competitor if the merger fails, calling it “the Hail Mary Pass” of defenses in antitrust cases. “Sprint simply needs to pull up its sleeves and compete,” he said.
Paul Gallant, an analyst at Cowen, put the odds of Judge Marrero approving the merger at only 40%. The states “likely raised enough questions about [the] Dish fix and merger synergies to prevent Marrero from accepting them,” he said.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images