SoftBank Hungry for T-Mobile, World Conquest
One Mobile Telecom to Rule Most of Them
Well, it appears that the very ambitious Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank is not even close to satiated by it’s July 2013 acquisition of Sprint, the U.S.’s 3rd-largest mobile carrier. Rather, the company would like another helping of relatively small-ish telecom in the form of T-Mobile US, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom. T-Mobile currently operates the 4th & 5th largest wireless networks in the U.S. (we openly don't care why it's both 4th and 5th).
Reuters’ top-secret mobile industry operatives are reporting that the acquisition would be made via the Sprint subsidiary, or offshoot, or division thingy (whatever you call what Sprint has become), and comparable to the bill for devouring Sprint last summer, T-Mobile would cost around $20 billion.
Pretty Far from Done Deal
The first hurdle is cash: Even SoftBank doesn’t have $20 billion just laying around gathering dust, but they’re probably good for it, and it’s likely they’ll find the money, but it's definitely not guaranteed.
The second hurdle is a rather beefy gatekeeper: Regulatory bodies in the U.S. government have previously blocked American carrier AT&T from dining on T-Mobile, and they might decide that a multi-national interest doing so is all the worse. After all, a SoftBank-led deal would effectively produce the same undesirable outcome cited in previous rulings: diminishing competition sliding toward antitrust.
Moreover, T-Mobile's parent company is German, and America, Inc. might find it particularly abrasive that further market consolidation would be at the hands of yet another foreign company.
All Your Wireless Data are Belong to Son?
It’s said that SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son longs to build the world’s largest mobile internet company, and it’s kinda funny that nobody ever asks why. Who knows - could be unadulterated ambition, could be a vendetta, could be a pseudo-Freudian parental issue, and it could be detailed in his autobiography that we'll never ever read. Whatever the motivation, his company's Beyond the Archipelago* business strategies are an excellent antidote to the pathologically isolationist proclivities of Japan's flailing consumer tech giants.
We'll see how this latest acquisition effort unfolds, and even if it fizzles, SoftBank is still going to do very well; shares are trading high, expansion is aggressive, and innovation is ongoing; suffice it to say, Mr. Son is really, really happy that history has been so very kind to his seminal 2008 statement to the Elders of Japanese Telecom:
"You dinosaurs and your fancy feature flip phones, you are all fantastically dumb to think that Japanese people don't want smartphones. Look, I'm bringin' the the iPhone to Japan, and you guys will be shoveling out half-baked Android bricks for years while I roll around naked in Apple money and start buying up American telecoms!"
Not his exact words, but a fairly accurate translation of his actions.
The iPhone Rules Japan
*we just made that up.