Report: Softbank Willing To Give Up Sprint Control To Seal Merger Deal With T-Mobile

Wireless carrier Sprint's parent company, Japan's SoftBank Group, would be willing to relinquish control of Sprint to T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, in the event of a merger, according to a report from Reuters published on Friday.

The two carriers will reportedly begin negotiation talks in April, following the conclusion of ongoing airwave auction. SoftBank has been unable to lay out a deal in front of Deutsche Telekom because of anti-collusion rules that ban discussions between rival carriers during auctions, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

A merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, or even one or both carriers being purchased by another company wouldn't come as a surprise at all, especially because of the new regulatory environment, according to one Sprint partner that requested anonymity.

"I think Sprint will for sure be gobbled up soon, and if it's a merger, I think T-Mobile would be the parent in that relationship," the solution provider said.

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[Related: Partners: Sprint, T-Mobile Could Merge Under A Republican Administration]

This isn't the first time M&A speculation has swirled between the two carriers. SoftBank, which owns about 83 percent of Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint, walked away from discussions regarding the carrier acquiring T-Mobile in 2014 after facing opposition from U.S. antitrust regulators. Dallas-based carrier AT&T in 2011 attempted to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion in a bid that was thwarted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) led by Democrat Tom Wheeler.

While SoftBank is willing to give up its stake in Sprint, it is reportedly asking to retain a minority stake in a merger with T-Mobile.

In one of his first moves in office, President Donald Trump appointed Republican Ajit Pai to head up the FCC. Pai, who served on the FCC under former President Barack Obama, has also worked at a lawyer for telecom giant Verizon and has more supportive of communications industry consolidation than his Democratic FCC counterparts were during the last administration.

With the new FCC in place under Trump's administration, a Sprint-T-Mobile tie-up could face less opposition, the anonymous partner said.

"There will definitely be less resistance to a merger like this," the partner said.

Reports of a potential merger sent stocks for both wireless carriers high. Sprint is currently up $0.31 (3.39%) to $9.31, after trading down all day, and T-Mobile jumped up $3.01 (4.97%) to $63.62.