from the ill-communication dept
With every indication that the government will be significantly more friendly to telecom giants in the new year, Wall Street has quickly gotten to work giddily daydreaming about mergers that were previously unthinkable in the space. Most commonly that involves predictions that Sprint will finally merge with T-Mobile (blocked under the current FCC because it would have reduced overall wireless competitors), or that Comcast and Charter will try to buy either Sprint or T-Mobile as part of a broader cable industry attempt to push into wireless.
But in a research note to investors this week, UBS analyst John Hodulik dreamed notably larger, arguing that the incoming Trump administration could possibly even allow a merger between telecom giants Comcast and Verizon:
"Densification of wireless networks required to meet the needs of video-centric subscribers increases synergies of cable-wireless combinations and provides the springboard for 5G-based services," he proclaims. "A roll-back of Title II re-classification could further increase incentives for cable," he adds, casually citing the likely dismantling of net neutrality and the FCC under Trump.While a Comcast Verizon merger may create "significant synergies" in the eyes of Wall Street, it could be downright fatal for broadband consumers. Verizon FiOS is among the only real competition Comcast sees along the east coast; so much so that the region is the only part of the country Comcast is afraid to expand its unnecessary usage caps into for fear of competitive repercussions. Eliminating that competition not only would result in caps and higher prices, but less motivation than ever for Comcast to improve its abysmal customer service.
He put forth a number of models that include Dish fusing with T-Mobile or other variations. But he noted that a Comcast or Charter merger with Verizon would create "significant synergies" and "integrated products" while being "accretive to revenue and EBITDA growth."
Now it's entirely possible that Verizon and Comcast don't want to merge, but it's clear that Wall Street sees a huge new wave of consolidation looming for the already uncompetitive broadband industry all the same. Since Trump's telecom advisors don't believe telecom monopolies exist, believe that regulatory oversight of said nonexistent monopolies should be virtually nonexistent, and can't even acknowledge that the sector's competitive shortcomings are real -- what could possibly go wrong?
Trump, of course raged, against megamergers on the campaign trail to drum up populist support, not only claiming he'd block AT&T's $100 billion acquisition of Time Warner, but claiming he'd somehow dismantle the already merged Comcast NBC Universal. Based on his telecom advisors' own words and policy positions, there's virtually no chance of either actually happening. In fact, Wall Street, Trump's own advisors, and most of the telecom sector clearly expect the exact opposite.
Between the Trump "populists" realizing they've been taken for a ride, and the net neutrality activists annoyed at the demolition of broadly-popular net neutrality rules and other broadband consumer protections, we're looking at quite a storm of megamerger dysfunction in the new year.