After regulators blocked a merger of Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. three years ago, the billionaire behind that deal is hoping he’ll finally get to create a stronger player in the U.S. wireless market.
“It makes sense not to have just two with such big market-share and two little ones,” SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son said in an interview for “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” on Bloomberg Television. “Three is a real fight, a real competition.”
SoftBank agreed to buy most of Sprint in 2012 and Son planned to combine it with T-Mobile to form a stronger No. 3 player behind AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. “From day one, I wanted to acquire not just Sprint,” Son said on Tuesday. “Sprint and T-Mobile as a set, that was my strategy.”
A combination between the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers was shot down by regulators in 2014, but discussions picked up again earlier this year. Washington regulators appointed by President Donald Trump haven’t signaled an insistence on maintaining a four-player nationwide wireless market, which was a feature of the preceding administration. Sprint and T-Mobile have reached a tentative agreement that would give Deutsche Telecom AG control in a potential combination of the two companies, a person familiar with the discussions told Bloomberg earlier Tuesday.
Son said he has “another company as a possibility we may consider” should the deal fall apart again. Though Son didn’t specify what his other option was, a person familiar with his thinking said the SoftBank chairman was referring to Charter Communications Inc. Son had plans earlier this year to make a bid for the cable company, lining up as much as $65 billion in financing.
Over the past 18 years, Son said he has made myriad investments in technology companies, garnering a 44 percent return for each year. One possible addition to his portfolio is Uber Technologies Inc. SoftBank is among a group of investors weighing taking a stake in the ride-hailing company in a deal that could reach as much as $12 billion, people familiar with the matter have said.
“We are considering, we have great interest” in Uber, Son said in the interview. “We have not decided — if we decide to do it, I think it has a great future.”