US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Julius Genachowski has asked commissioners to send the proposal for the US$39 billion merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA for a hearing with an agency judge, reports Bloomberg.
The FCC can designate a transaction for a hearing if it believes the deal isn’t in the public interest. An unnamed FCC official said members of the regulator feel the merger could reduce wireless competition, lead to significant job losses and is unlikely to boost the rollout of mobile broadband. The hearing will take place following a ruling on the US Justice Department’s lawsuit blocking the deal, the trial for which is due to take place in February.
In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, AT&T senior VP of corporate communications Larry Solomon said the company is reviewing all options adding that the FCC’s action is “disappointing”.
“It is yet another example of a government agency acting to prevent billions in new investment and the creation of many thousands of new jobs at a time when the US economy desperately needs both,” Solomon is quoted as saying.
US number three operator Sprint Nextel has also attempted to block the deal but US District Judge Ellen Huvelle, who is also presiding of the US Justice Department’s lawsuit opposing the merger, recently denied the company access to AT&T documents to boost its case as it doesn’t “stand in the shoes of the consumer or the Department of Justice."
AT&T recently pushed back its intended closing date for the proposed merger by three months to the middle of 2012 due to the intense regulatory scrutiny the deal has come up against. The Financial Times this week reported that “most analysts think there is a less than 50:50 chance” that the merger will go ahead, unless significant concessions are made ahead of the court hearing in February.