Rabu, 23 Juli 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless, the No. 2 U.S. mobile service, has offered to divest assets in 85 cell phone markets in a bid to gain regulatory approval for its proposed 28.1 billion purchase of smaller rival Alltel.

The venture of Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L) said on Tuesday that it expects the deal to be finalized by the end of this year.

It said in a July 22 letter to the U.S telecommunications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, that it had identified 85 markets where the companies have overlapping properties after initial discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice, which examines anti-trust implications of mergers.

Markets where Verizon Wireless said it would divest operations include the entire states of North Dakota and South Dakota and overlapping assets in 16 more states, including California, Colorado, Georgia and Idaho.

Verizon Wireless, which would pass AT&T Inc (T.N) as the No. 1 U.S. mobile service if the deal succeeds, said divestitures would ensure the deal does not result is less competition for consumers in any markets.

Analysts have said they expect the deal to win regulatory approval. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Blair Levin said in a research note that the deal would be approved in the fourth quarter. He said rivals such as AT&T, Leap Wireless International Inc (LEAP.O) and MetroPCS Communications Inc (PCS.N) could likely be interested in buying the assets.

Verizon also promised to honor the terms of any roaming agreements Alltel has in place with other carriers. Customers of operators such as Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) switch to Alltels network in rural areas where Sprint does not have coverage.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Andre Grenon)


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