Sprint and T-Mobile have secured their latest victory from state authorities, as the nation’s No. 3 and 4 wireless carriers work to win approval for their more than $26 billion proposed merger.
Last week, the New York Public Service Commission approved the deal, subject to certain conditions related to maintaining employment and service in the state.
“In evaluating the public interest relevant to this transaction, the Commission finds that, on balance, after evaluating the comments received and the risks associated with the proposed transaction the transaction will advance public interest and is approved, but only subject to the conditions discussed herein,” the order said.
Specifically, Sprint is required to continue operating its relay call center in Syracuse and honor existing contracts until they expire.
Additionally, in response to concerns (including from the CWA) that the merger will spark job losses, the NY PSC imposed the condition that the total number of workers employed by the New T-Mobile in the state will remain at the current level or higher for three years after the deal closes. The commission noted T-Mobile’s recent announcement naming Rochester as the second location for one of five new customer service centers planned if the deal is approved. Each customer experience center is expected to employ at least 1,000 workers.
While the commission recognized concerns raised by certain commenters, including Altice and Dish, over reduced MVNO competition, the agency said those issues are subject to review by the FCC and Department of Justice.
The CWA union, which has been vocal about opposition to the merger, expressed disappointment in the NY PSC’s approval, but applauded the condition of job retention-related requirements.
“While we disagree with the New York Public Service Commission’s decision to approve the merger and continue to believe that the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger will be harmful to New York workers and consumers, we appreciate that the Commission has clearly heard our job loss concerns and recognized that the impact of the merger on jobs is directly relevant to the public interest standard,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1, in a statement.
With the greenlight from NY officials, T-Mobile and Sprint now have 16 of the 19 needed approvals from state public utilities commissions. Notably, the California Public Utilities Commission is still reviewing the deal.
On T-Mobile’s quarterly earnings call last week, CEO John Legere reiterated confidence about winning regulatory approval for the deal within the first half of this year, despite concerns from some analysts that odds were decreasing.
“A number of major milestones have been completed and we remain optimistic and confident that once regulators review all the facts they will recognize the significant pro consumer and pro competitive benefits of this combination,” Legere said on the call with investors.