Dish Network Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Altice USA Inc. are among bidders for assets T-Mobile US Inc. plans to sell to win regulatory approval for its $26.5 billion takeover of Sprint Corp., according to people familiar with the matter.
The companies are on a shortlist of bidders favored by the Justice Department, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. The antitrust division would be comfortable with cable companies buying the assets because they are better positioned to become viable competitors with their own networks, one of the people said.
Others could be in the mix, they said.
T-Mobile and Sprint have agreed to sell prepaid wireless brand Boost to appease the Federal Communications Commission, which also has to approve the deal. To win over the Justice Department, the companies are also discussing offloading another prepaid brand and enough spectrum to help set up a viable fourth competitor if the deal goes through.
They are working with a shortlist of potential buyers acceptable to the Justice Department with the aim of having the antitrust enforcer sign off on the winner as part of their approval efforts, the people said.
Representatives for Dish, Charter, Altice USA, T-Mobile, Sprint and the Justice Department declined to comment.
Sprint shares rose as much as 3.5 percent on the news and were trading at $6.77 at 1:47 p.m. in New York.
T-Mobile agreed to buy Sprint in April 2018, wagering that together the carriers can build a next-generation wireless network to better compete with industry leaders Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc.
Nine states and the District of Columbia sued to block the deal on antitrust grounds this week, putting pressure on the Justice Department as it nears a decision on the merger.
There is a 75 percent chance the Justice Department approves the transaction even after the lawsuit from the states, according to Chase White, an analyst with Height Capital Markets who covers the tech, media and telecommunications industries.
The lawsuit is a sign that Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim is leaning toward approval, White said in a note to clients Wednesday.
It’s not clear whether the states would settle their case even if the companies reach an agreement with the Justice Department.