AT&T to buy wireless business

LR-based Allied serves six states

Posted: January 23, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.

— AT&T Inc. has agreed to buy Atlantic Tele-Network Inc.’s U.S. retail wireless telephone business, which is based in Little Rock, for about $780 million, the company announced Tuesday morning.

The acquisition includes licenses, network assets, retail stores and about 585,000 customers in rural areas of six states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Idaho, according to news releases.

The assets in the deal are operated under the Alltel brand by Allied Wireless Communications Corp. of Little Rock, a subsidiary of Atlantic Tele-Network.

The company acquired the assets and subscribers from Verizon Wireless in a $223 million deal that was completed in 2010.

The agreement also included a license to continue the use of the Alltel name in certain markets.

Verizon Wireless had to divest the properties as part of government regulatory approvals for its $28.1 billion purchase of Alltel Inc. in 2009.

When Allied Wireless located its headquarters in Little Rock, it hired many former Alltel employees, and it employs about 270 people at its headquarters.

Frank O’Mara is chief executive officer of Allied Wireless. He was born in Ireland and is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

During his college career, he won the 1,500 meter run at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 1983. He went on to become the world indoor champion at 3,000 meters in 1987 and 1991.

O’Mara later worked for Alltel in various capacities, running call centers and in the legal and marketing departments.

Spokesmen for AT&T and Atlantic Tele-Network declined comment on how the deal will affect Allied Wireless’ Little Rock employees.

In a prepared statement, Atlantic Tele-Network Chief Executive Officer Michael Prior said, “many of our employees should benefit from new career opportunities within AT&T.”

“We will work closely with AT&T to close the transaction and to ensure a smoothtransition for our customers and employees,” he said.

Dallas-based AT&T said it would gain about 800 total employees through the agreement. The company said those would be corporate employees and employees supporting the network operations.

The transaction, which is subject to review by the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice, is expected to be completed later in the year.

Stephens Inc. in Little Rock is acting as a financial adviser for Atlantic Tele-Network.

Atlantic Tele-Network, which is based in Beverly, Mass., said Allied Wireless operations generated about $350 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2012.

AT&T Inc. shares gained 17 cents on the Nasdaq stock market Tuesday and closed at $33.61. Shares of Atlantic Tele-Network rose 4.83 to finish at $44.20.

Demand for wireless spectrum has increased consolidation and increased the values of companies that own a desirable collection of airwaves, said Chris King, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore. Based on the announced sale price, the business has more than tripled in value, despite losing more than 200,000 subscribers, King said.

“Clearly the deal is a hugely successful investment for [Atlantic Tele-Network],” King said in a note to investors reported by Bloomberg News.

Business, Pages 23 on 01/23/2013