AT&T top buyer at U.S. airwaves auction; Dish spends big

Fri Jan 30, 2015 6:27pm EST
 
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By Alina Selyukh and Malathi Nayak

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - AT&T Inc (T.N: Quote) spent close to half the total in the record-setting U.S. sale of airwaves for mobile data, with Dish Network Corp (DISH.O: Quote) spending heavily to manage a surprise win at No.2 ahead of Verizon, results showed on Friday.

AT&T bid a total of $18.2 billion to win licenses of so-called AWS-3 spectrum. Dish itself did not win any licenses, but had invested in bidding partners SNR Wireless LicenseCo LLC and Northstar Wireless LLC, which bid a total of $13.3 billion.

The two companies, backed also by financial firms including BlackRock Inc (BLK.N: Quote) but with little to no revenue, had applied to receive a discount as small-business entities, bringing their net bid amount to $10 billion.

Verizon and T-Mobile TMUS.N bids were $10.4 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively, according to the results of the Federal Communications Commission's largest ever auction.

"Dish was the one that surprised most, spending a couple of billion more than anticipated," said Jefferies & Co analyst Mike McCormack.

Dish's larger-than-expected bid for over 700 licenses put a damper on the investors' hypothesis that the satellite company had expected to turn around and sell the newly acquired airwaves to Verizon or another buyer. However, Dish's plans remain unclear.

Shares of Dish fell 4.3 percent to close at $70.35 on Thursday.

Verizon made slightly lower-than-expected bids but the company had hinted to investors that it would do so in December, McCormack added.   Continued...

 
An AT&T Logo is pictured on the side of a building in Pasadena, California, January 26, 2015.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni