Justice forcing AT&T to divest assets
by Wally Northway
Published: October 14,2009
SOUTHWEST MISSISSIPPI — The Department of Justice will require AT&T Inc. to divest assets in eight areas in Louisiana and Mississippi in order to proceed with its $944-million acquisition of Centennial Communications Corp.
The Department said that the transaction, as originally proposed, would substantially lessen competition to the detriment of consumers of mobile wireless telecommunications services in those areas, and likely would result in higher prices, lower quality and reduced network investments. The divestitures cover portions of southwestern and central Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi.
The Department’s Antitrust Division, along with the Attorney General of Louisiana, filed a civil lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed acquisition of Centennial by AT&T. At the same time, the Department and the Louisiana Attorney General filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns in the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, AT&T and Centennial are each other’s closest competitor for a significant set of customers in eight cellular marketing areas, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The complaint alleges that the proposed transaction would substantially reduce competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services in each of these areas. The proposed settlement requires divestitures in these areas to eliminate the competitive concerns.
The transaction also is subject to review by the FCC. The Department has cooperated with the FCC’s separate review of this matter.
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