During T-Mobile’s Q&A session after the company’s CES event today, I asked CEO John Legere about the resurgent rumors of a potential merger or combination with SoftBank/Sprint under President Donald Trump and a new FCC. He described that combination as “a potential future outcome” of a new administration and friendlier regulatory environment.
Legere was heavily critical of Sprint’s position in the US wireless market during his earlier stage presentation, but responded to my question by applauding SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son for his planned $50 billion investment in the US. Still, he followed that up by saying “it’s also pretty clear Sprint needs to do something.” (All emphasis in these quotes by The Verge.)
“Sprint themselves is like an exploding plan. They're making progress but they pretty clearly have a ways to go. So in the future structure of the industry, there are a number of people who think, well, it may make sense from a scale standpoint to consider the coming together of T-Mobile and Sprint.” Legere also suggested that Sprint might be acquired by a major cable operator as a quick route into the mobile business.
He started to give a non-answer on the subject, saying “What I've always been clear about for T-Mobile is we'll focus the company on organic and in organic growth, and there are multiple, multiple ways for us to continue to increase shareholder value.”
But then the real answer came.
“The good news is we're not entering this year of craziness, and by the way, it's gonna be crazy, being in trouble. We're strong. Our brand is strong. We're growing tremendously. And yes.. We will consider continued strong individual growth as a company or various forms of consolidation around our brand and platform of growth. And so that you pretty clearly have to say that is one of many potential future outcomes of the industry structure. But who knows. We’ll wait and see”
President-elect Trump does not support all consolidation; he is against the proposed combination of AT&T and Time Warner.
At the close of his presentation, Legere brought out a crystal ball and made several predictions of what will occur in the mobile and tech industry throughout 2017. Among them was a prophecy that sometime this year, three of the big four US carriers will undergo CEO changes. Legere did not specify which three companies those would be.