Whatever else you can say about 5G wireless, getting there won’t be cheap for wireless carriers. Straight Path Communications Inc. (NYSEMKT: STRP) announced Monday morning that it had received an all-stock offer valued at $184.00 per share from an unnamed “multi-national telecommunications company. The bid is nearly double the $95.83 per share all-stock bid from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) that got the ball rolling in early April.
Straight Path’s board has declared the anonymous offer to be a “superior proposal” and has notified AT&T that the telecom giant has 3 business days to match or exceed the offer that is valued at $3.1 billion. AT&T’s original offer totaled $1.6 billion and the company did not respond with a higher bid when the anonymous firm announced a $135.96 per share bid ($1.8 billion) on May 1.
Under the terms of the agreement between Straight Path and AT&T, the former must pay a break-up fee of $38 million if it decides to accept the higher offer. The anonymous bidder has agreed to pay the fee if it wins the bidding.
In its announcement Straight Path noted:
At this time, Straight Path remains subject to the AT&T Merger Agreement and the Straight Path Board has not changed its recommendation in support of the AT&T transaction, the existing AT&T Merger Agreement, or its recommendation that Straight Path’s stockholders adopt the AT&T Merger Agreement. There can be no assurances that a transaction with the [unnamed] Bidder will result from the Bidder’s offer, or that any other transaction will be consummated. There can be no assurance that AT&T will seek to negotiate with Straight Path or will make a revised 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.
Straight Path stock traded up 21% in Monday’s premarket session at $195.26. On Friday the stock posted a new 52-week high of $170 against a 52-week low of $15.06. The stock traded at around $36.50 before the AT&T offer was announced.