Sprint, Looking to Get Bigger to Survive, Weighs Deal-Making

The emergence of the potential bid for Charter is the latest deal-making wrinkle that SoftBank has weighed for Sprint over the past five years. Mr. Son first bought control of the embattled wireless company in 2013 for nearly $22 billion, and then quickly embarked on a pursuit of T-Mobile. Those talks ended in 2014, having drawn strong opposition from the Obama administration.

Further talks with T-Mobile have been suspended. T-Mobile’s reversal in fortunes has made it bigger by market value than Sprint, putting Mr. Son at a disadvantage in negotiations.

But Sprint has had talks with Charter and Comcast to offer wireless services to their cable and high-speed internet customers.

During a quarterly earnings call last week, Sprint’s chief executive, Marcelo Claure, said that a final announcement about any deal “should be coming in the near future.” He did not elaborate.

Mr. Claure said that his primary job was to improve Sprint’s health as a stand-alone company. That progress has been slow, but has shown results: The telecom company reported $206 million in profit in the second quarter, the first such profit in three years. Much of that came from an expansive cost-cutting program that has shed nearly $4 billion over the past two years.

But Sprint still lost 39,000 consumers on traditional contracts in the quarter, despite offering a full year of unlimited data to new subscribers. The company’s main rivals all reported strong gains in new customers for the quarter.

Sprint has had to acknowledge that it would have a tough time thriving on its own. From the company’s perspective, combining with Charter would make sense.

Broadband providers have been eager to find other ways to drive up revenue, and wireless has been one avenue that cable operators have dived into. Charter and Comcast formed an alliance this spring to explore wireless opportunities. Already, Comcast has begun offering its subscribers mobile service through Verizon, with Charter expected to follow suit.

From Sprint’s perspective, a cable company would help give the telecom company the wired backbone it needs to upgrade its wireless service to 5G. While Verizon and AT&T have been investing billions into bolstering their networks, Sprint has had far fewer resources to do so.

“The potential additional synergies that you have in doing a strategic transaction will always be significantly better than having a stand-alone entity,” Mr….

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