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T-Mobile CFO makes case for U.S. consolidation, Sprint deal

Signage for a T-Mobile store is pictured in downtown Los Angeles, California August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Signage for a T-Mobile store is pictured in downtown Los Angeles, California August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

NEW YORK (Reuters) - T-Mobile US Inc Chief Financial Officer Braxton Carter said on Wednesday that he expected more consolidation in the U.S. wireless market and made a case for a deal between his company and bigger rival Sprint Corp.

Carter declined to say whether T-Mobile US, the No. 4 U.S. mobile provider, and Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. operator, had talked. "It's the logical ultimate combination," Carter told Reuters on the sidelines of the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference in New York.

"We think it's not a question of if but when that there's further consolidation in our industry," Carter told the audience.

Carter conceded that the current U.S. regulatory environment was "tough" for consolidation as the government already blocked T-Mobile's proposed sale to AT&T Inc in 2011, saying that the market needed four national operators.

He said a deal involving the smaller national operators would be good for the industry. He described the U.S. market as a "duopoly" because AT&T and larger rival Verizon Wireless are far bigger than T-Mobile and Sprint.

So if a consolidation resulted in a much bigger No. 3 rival to AT&T and Verizon, "you create a more competitive environment," Carter said.

However, such a deal might take time to come together. Carter's comments followed a prediction by No. 2 rival AT&T Inc's chief executive officer, Randall Stephenson, the day before about the unlikelihood of any major mergers here in the next few years because regulators appear to want four major operators.

Since it closed its merger with smaller provider MetroPCS in April, T-Mobile US itself has been improving its customer numbers by competing aggressively against AT&T with new consumer offerings and direct marketing.

AT&T's Stephenson had said Tuesday that his company was only affected by the tougher competition from T-Mobile US in the "price-sensitive" part of the market.

But on Wednesday T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert quipped during his appearance at the conference that "the price-sensitive part of the market is the lower 90 percent."

T-Mobile shares were up 2.7 percent at $26.12 on New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, while Sprint was down 0.5 percent at $6.16.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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