The Federal Communications Commission has approved the merger of T-Mobile USA with prepaid wireless provider MetroPCS Communications. The Department of Justice cleared the proposed deal earlier this month, but the transaction still must be approved by MetroPCS shareholders.
In a statement today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the T-Mobile-MetroPCS merger “will benefit millions of American consumers and help the U.S. maintain the global leadership in mobile it has regained in recent years.” He suggested that the deal would help advance the goal of building out the country’s mobile broadband infrastructure.
The merger faces opposition, however, from MetroPCS shareholders that are pushing for a better deal. A group of minority shareholders last year filed suit to block the deal on the grounds that it drastically undervalues the company.
In a letter today, MetroPCS defended the deal in the midst of a proxy fight ahead of its April 12 shareholders meetings. A pair of large MetroPCS investors — P. Schoenfeld Asset Management and Paulson & Co. — have also criticized the merger.
Under the agreement, Deutsche Telekom AG of Germany — T-Mobile’s parent company — would gain a 74% stake in the combined company, with MetroPCS shareholders owning the balance. They would also receive a special dividend of $1.5 billion.
Last year, federal regulators stopped AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile because it would have reduced the number of U.S. major wireless carriers from four to three. But the merger of two smaller players struggling to compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless is likely seen as less of a threat to industry competition.