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Reports: Sprint pursuing merger with cable giant Charter

By Eric DuVall
Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son has proposed merging his No. 4 wireless carrier in the United States with the country's second-largest cable and broadband Internet provider, Charter Communications. File photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son has proposed merging his No. 4 wireless carrier in the United States with the country's second-largest cable and broadband Internet provider, Charter Communications. File photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

July 29 (UPI) -- The owner of wireless company Sprint has proposed a merger with cable giant Charter Communications, though Charter's leaders are reportedly only lukewarm to the idea.

The potential merger would create a new publicly traded company controlled by SoftBank, which is also run by Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son, a Japanese billionaire.

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Charter is not on board with the cash and stock merger proposal yet, but talks continue, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The potential merger comes at a time when wireless technology providers like Sprint are pairing off with traditional cable companies to be able to offer customers a full suite of Internet access. Consumers are increasingly split in their reliance on broadband Internet in the home and mobile technology on their cellphones and other devices to get online.

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Speaking during an investor call this week, Charter CEO Brian Roberts downplayed the possibility of a merger and reports surfaced he remains unconvinced of the need for Charter to pair up with a wireless provider.

"We really feel we're not missing anything," Roberts said. "No disrespect to wireless. It's a tough business."

Charter is the nation's No. 2 cable company and Sprint is the No. 4 wireless provider on a per-subscriber basis.

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Complicating matters, Charter entered into a noncompete agreement with rival Comcast in which both companies agreed not to seek a merger with a wireless company for one year, meaning the Sprint deal would require Comcast's blessing.

Sprint and Charter have also been engaged in direct talks over the potential of Comcast reselling Sprint wireless packages to its customers, a smaller-scale merger that would mean both companies retain their existing entities but team up to push existing Charter customers to package their home television and Internet plans with a Sprint cellphone plan, Bloomberg reported. Those talks have taken a backseat to the larger merger discussion, but could continue if the idea of a merger is dropped.

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