T-Mobile's Legere Defends Sprint Deal to U.S. Officials, Sources Say

(Bloomberg) -- T-Mobile US Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Legere defended his planned takeover of Sprint Corp. to top Justice Department officials in a bid to head off worries the combination of the two wireless carriers could harm consumers, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Legere met Thursday with antitrust division chief Makan Delrahim and other officials to defend the deal after staff attorneys vetting the merger informed the companies of their concerns, said the people, who requested anonymity because the review is confidential.

While the Justice Department hasn’t made any final decisions about whether to challenge the merger in court, meetings between chief executives and the division’s top leadership typically indicate an investigation is in the final stages. Senior officials have also met recently with at least one third party that has raised concerns about the deal, according to a third person. That’s another sign the department is nearing a decision.

A parallel review by the Federal Communications Commission is on day 136 of a 180-day timeline.

T-Mobile and the Justice Department declined to comment.

The $26.5 billion takeover would unite the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers, sparking fears it would lead to higher prices for consumers. On Thursday, a group of opponents, including the Communications Workers of America and Dish Network Corp., wrote to the Justice Department and the FCC, urging them to reject it. They argued it would reduce choice, lead to higher wireless bills, and cause job losses.

Legere has argued that a merged company would be a stronger rival to Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., the nation’s top providers. He also touts how the tie-up will advance deployment of the next-generation of wireless technology known as 5G.

Earlier this week, Legere tweeted a video of himself in front of the Washington Monument, while Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure tweeted a photo of the monument and said, “this is an important week.”

Besides the Justice Department and the FCC, state attorneys general are investigating the merger. Some of the states are concerned that the deal could harm competition and are considering a lawsuit to block the tie-up on antitrust grounds, people familiar with the matter said last month. They may act even if the Justice Department approves the proposal, they said.

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