By Greg Roumeliotis and Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) – U.S. cable operator Charter Communications Inc said on Sunday it was not interested in acquiring U.S. wireless carrier Sprint Corp, leaving the latter’s majority owner, SoftBank Group Corp, pondering how to orchestrate a merger.
A merger of Charter and Sprint would create a telecommunications powerhouse, providing a one-stop shop for customers looking for internet and mobile phone services, and giving the combined company a stronger footing in creating the infrastructure required for so-called 5G wireless technology.
SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son is considering making an acquisition offer for Charter, which has a market capitalization of $101 billion and another $60 billion in debt, as early as this week, a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday, in what would be by far the Japanese telecommunications conglomerate’s biggest ever deal.
SoftBank remains interested in merging Sprint with T-Mobile US Inc, another U.S. wireless carrier controlled by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG, with which Sprint held deal negotiations earlier this year, the source added.
The source asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. SoftBank declined to comment.
“We understand why a deal is attractive for SoftBank, but Charter has no interest in acquiring Sprint,” a Charter spokesman said in an emailed statement on Sunday. He declined to comment on whether Charter would entertain a bid from SoftBank and at what price.
Sprint and T-Mobile could not be immediately reached for comment.
SoftBank’s potential bid for Charter would follow the conclusion of two months of negotiations with Charter and larger cable peer Comcast Corp over Sprint potentially serving as their mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), allowing them to use its network to offer wireless services.
“We have a very good MVNO relationship with Verizon Communications Inc and intend to launch wireless services to cable customers next year,” the Charter spokesman said.
SoftBank’s interest in Charter also shows it is looking for alternatives to strengthen its negotiating hand in Sprint’s negotiations with T-Mobile, analysts said.
“This could be a way to gain leverage in a T-Mobile deal,” Macquarie analyst Amy Yong said of Son’s pursuit of Charter on Sunday.
To be sure, a bid for Charter by SoftBank, which has a market capitalization of 9.9 trillion yen ($90.3 billion), would be a stretch for its finances, given that it would likely be…