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Verizon near wireless deal
August 2, 2000: 4:21 p.m. ET

No. 2 U.S. telecom nears deal to sell Midwest wireless assets for $1.4B
By Staff Writers Luisa Beltran and Tom Johnson
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Verizon Communications, the No. 2 U.S. telecommunications company, is nearing a deal to sell a portion of its Midwest wireless assets to an investment consortium for nearly $1.4 billion, sources close to the negotiations told Wednesday.

The sources said the discussions for a portion of Verizon's Chicago and Cincinnati wireless licenses are at an advanced stage, but a final deal has not been signed. One source said the companies anticipated announcing the transaction Wednesday, but last-minute negotiations held up a final agreement.

"The deal is not signed yet," one source said. "There are some agreements that still need to be signed."

Verizon officials declined to comment on the reports, saying they do not comment on market rumors.

The consortium, called BGV, is based in Pennsylvania and is comprised of the management of Triton Cellular Partners and other investors, including Arlington Capital, Greenleaf Ridge, and affiliates of J.P. Morgan & Co. (JPM: Research, Estimates) and First Union Corp. (FTU: Research, Estimates), a source said.

graphicVerizon is under a mandate to sell part of its wireless assets in Chicago and Cincinnati to comply with a federal law that prohibits one company from owning more than one wireless license in any particular market.

When Verizon Wireless was created earlier this year through the merger of Bell Atlantic Corp.'s, GTE Corp.'s and Vodafone AirTouch PLC's wireless assets, the company had duplicative licenses in several markets, including Richmond, Va., Tampa, Fla., Houston, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati.

Verizon Wireless, currently ranked as the No. 1 U.S. wireless concern with more than 25 million customers nationwide, has already disposed of the extra licenses in each of those markets except for Chicago and Cincinnati. The Wall Street Journal's online edition, which first reported the negotiations, said the licenses marked for sale in those two markets cover roughly 16 million potential customers and 400,000 current customers.

One source said the wireless assets currently being discussed for sale include Vodafone's former Chicago license and GTE's former Cincinnati license.

Pat Commack, an analyst with Guzman & Co., said selling those assets for the reported $1.4 billion, which equates to about $87.50 per potential customer, would be "a steal" on BGV's part. He noted Deutsche Telekom (DT: Research, Estimates) paid about $240 per potential customer when it agreed to buy U.S. wireless concern VoiceStream Wireless Corp. (VSTR: Research, Estimates) earlier this month.

"I would be disappointed with that sale," he said. "My stance without seeing a release from the company is I doubt they sold it for $1.4 billion. It's either [fewer potential customers] or more money."

Verizon (VZ: Research, Estimates) shed 1/16 to close at 47-7/8 in trading Wednesday. Back to top


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