Verizon Outbids AT&T for 5G Tech Firm Straight Path

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The bidding war for Straight Path Communications Inc. (NYSEMKT: STRP) is over — for now at least. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) announced Thursday morning that it will sign a definitive merger agreement to acquire Straight Path for $184 a share in an all-stock transaction intended to qualify as a tax-free reorganization.

The total value of the deal is $3.1 billion, nearly double the offer for Straight Path made in early April by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) of $1.6 billion ($95.93 per share) in stock. The smaller company had accepted AT&T’s offer only to have an unnamed competitor — now known to be Verizon — enter the bidding two weeks later.

Verizon’s first bid valued Straight Path at $2.3 billion ($135.96 per share), and the telecom giant raised that to $184 a share last Monday.

The acquisition implies a premium of 486% to Straight Path’s closing price of $31.41 on January 11, the day before the company announced that it had settled a dispute with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and had begun a strategic review. Compared to the stock’s price on the day before AT&T revealed its offer for the company, Straight Path’s premium is 404%.

Verizon and Straight Path anticipate closing the deal within nine months, subject to FCC review. Straight Path’s majority shareholder has agreed to vote in favor of the Verizon offer.

Straight Path is being sought for its 735 millimeter-wave (mmWave) licenses in the 39 GHz band and 133 licenses in the 28 GHz band that cover the entire United States, including the top 40 markets. mmWave technology is one of the cornerstones upon which next generation high-speed 5G networks will be built.

Using mmWave technology to connect mobile customers with nearby base stations is a new use of a technology that is currently used to transmit data from satellite or radar systems and is beginning to be used by cellular providers to move data between nearby cellular base stations.

By itself, mmWave technology is not sufficient to generate 5G speeds due in large part to its inability easily to travel through buildings or other obstructions. The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has a good explanation of some of the basic technologies being developed to provide wireless networks that can download an entire movie in high-definition in less than a second, compared with about 10 minutes on today’s 4G/LTE networks.

Investors had bid Straight Path’s shares up to a 52-week high of $235.88, and the stock closed at $223.79 on Wednesday. The stock plunged in Thursday’s premarket, down more than 21% to trade around $176. The 52-week low is $15.06.