AT&T Buys Leap: Another 24/7 “Disappearing Brands” Disappears

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AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) will buy Leap Wireless International Inc. (NASDAQ: LEAP) in a deal that 24/7 Wall St. anticipated months ago when Leap was put on the “Ten Brands That Will Disappear in 2014″ list. Leap has been pounded by financial and subscriber losses for years. In a world dominated by AT&T, Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S), which itself was taken over by Softbank recently, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile, which bought MetroPCS, the tiny company had no chance to survive alone.

The news drove Leap’s shares higher by 108% to $16.60, a god send for previously unlucky shareholders

The deal announcement:

AT&T Inc. and prepaid wireless provider Leap Wireless International Inc.have entered into an agreement for AT&T to acquire Leap for $15 per share in cash. Under the terms of the agreement, AT&T will acquire all of Leap’s stock and wireless properties, including licenses, network assets, retail stores and approximately 5 million subscribers. As of April 15, 2013, Leap had $2.8 billion of net debt. Leap shareholders will also receive a contingent right entitling them to the net proceeds received on the sale of Leap’s 700 Mhz “A Block” spectrum in Chicago, which Leap purchased for $204 million in August 2012.

Leap’s network covers approximately 96 million people in 35 U.S. states. Leap currently operates — under the Cricket brand — a 3G CDMA network, as well as a 4G LTE network covering 21 million people in these areas, and has 3,400 employees.

AT&T will retain the Cricket brand name, provide Cricket customers with access to AT&T’s award-winning 4G LTE mobile network, utilize Cricket’s distribution channels, and expand Cricket’s presence to additional U.S. cities. The result will be increased competition, better device choices, improved customer care and a significantly enhanced mobile Internet experience for consumers seeking low-cost prepaid wireless plans.

The combined company will have the financial resources, scale and spectrum to better compete with other major national providers for customers interested in low-cost prepaid service. Cricket’s employees, operations and distribution will jump start AT&T’s expansion into the highly competitive prepaid segment.

The acquisition includes spectrum in the PCS and AWS bands covering 137 million people and is largely complementary to AT&T’s existing spectrum licenses. Immediately after approval of the transaction, AT&T plans to put Leap’s unutilized spectrum – which covers 41 million people – to use in furthering its 4G LTE deployment and providing additional capacity and enhanced network performance for customers’ growing mobile Internet usage.

Owners of approximately 29.8% of Leap’s outstanding shares have entered into an agreement to vote in favor of the transaction.

The transaction is subject to review by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice and to other customary closing conditions. AT&T expects the transaction to close in six to nine months.

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