AT&T to acquire Dobson Communications for $2.8 billion

Mumbai: The largest US wireless carrier, AT&T Inc, yesterday agreed to acquire rural wireless provider Dobson Communications Corp for $2.8 billion in cash, on the same day that Apple Inc.''s iPhone was introduced in the market, for which AT&T is the sole carrier.

Dobson''s chairman Everett Dobson noted that the acquisition by AT&T was the only way for Dobson''s customers to have access to the device.

The offer translates to $13 per share and represents a 17-per cent premium over Dobson''s closing price yesterday of $11.11 on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. Including debt, the deal is worth a total of about USD 5.1 billion.

Since 1990 the Oklahama-based Dobson has provided roaming services to AT&T. The acquisition will add Dobson''s 1.7 million customers who subscribe to its Cellular One brand in rural and suburban markets in 17 states to its own nearly 62 million subscribers.

Stan Sigman, the president and chief executive of AT&T''s mobility group, said Dobson''s network and technology would fit almost perfectly with the company''s existing network.

Analysts have often questioned how much larger carriers can grow in the US wireless market that is already said to be saturated. AT&T is still completing its integration of BellSouth Corp. and the old AT&T''s long distance business - two major acquisitions in the last couple of years.