T-Mobile US Inc is the likeliest acquisition target as media companies seek a wireless partner following AT&T Inc's proposed $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc, analysts said.
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AT&T announced the deal late on Saturday, stoking urgency in the telecoms and media sectors, where carriers facing a saturated wireless market are looking for content to attract mobile users and producers of shows and movies are seeking digital distribution.
T-Mobile took most of the wireless industry's subscriber and revenue growth in the third quarter. Its strong balance sheet and fast-growing wireless business makes it an attractive target for a pay-TV or media company, analysts said.
T-Mobile shares jumped 9.5 percent on Monday after it announced third-quarter financial results. At least nine analysts raised their target price on the No. 3 wireless company, which said it added 851,000 postpaid subscribers in the quarter.
T-Mobile has taken market share from bigger rivals Verizon and AT&T, and that momentum is expected to continue, analysts said.
"The takeout target over the next twelve months has got to be T-Mobile," New Street Research analyst Spencer Kurn said. Potential buyers include Comcast Corp, satellite-TV provider Dish Network Corp, and Mexican telecom company America Movil, analysts said.
Comcast and Dish declined to comment. America Movil could not be immediately reached for comment.
"Content of all kind is rapidly landing on the internet and the internet itself is rapidly transforming toward mobile," T-mobile Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert told Reuters.
T-Mobile is "very interested" in exploring strategic opportunities, he said.
Sprint Corp, which is aggressively working towards reviving its wireless business, is another takeout candidate, analysts said.
Sprint received more calls than usual from bankers over the weekend after the AT&T-Time Warner deal was announced, Chief Executive Marcelo Claure said on an earnings call on Tuesday.
"Our strategic value to many has significantly grown," he added.
Dish is struggling to grow its subscriber base amid intense competition, but sits on a treasure trove of wireless spectrum that it has amassed in recent years.
Dish has been long considered an acquisition target for AT&T or Verizon to boost their wireless networks. Dish's spectrum could be worth nearly $45 billion, analysts said.
Dish CEO Charlie Ergen "has been pretty realistic about the challenges in the pay-TV business," so it is more likely they would look to sell, BTIG analyst Walt Piecyk said.
The AT&T-Time Warner deal means Dish has lost a potential buyer in AT&T, Piecyk added.
(Reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)