For those among us who live in hyperbaric chambers and for whom this wasn’t already patently obvious, I present:
Thursday July 13 12:44 PM ET WorldCom, Sprint Call Off $120 Billion Merger By Ian Simpson NEW YORK (Reuters) – Long-distance telephone powerhouses WorldCom Inc. (NasdaqNM:WCOM – news) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE:FON – news) canceled their $120 billion merger plan on Thursday in the face of opposition from U.S. and European regulators. Analysts said the collapse of the deal makes both companies attractive takeover targets, especially for foreign firms seeking a U.S. foothold, but Sprint’s top executive declared that his company was not for sale. On Wall Street, investors reacted to the news that the merger was off by bidding up shares of WorldCom. The No. 2 U.S. long-distance company was up 2-7/8 at 47-3/8 in midday trade on the Nasdaq stock market and was among the most active issues. By contrast, shares of Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. long-distance company, were off 15/16 at 46-3/8 on the New York Stock Exchange. WorldCom, based in Clinton, Miss., and Sprint, based in Kansas City, Mo., said they had called off the merger because of pressure from the U.S. Justice Department and the European Union. The regulators moved to block the deal two weeks ago, saying a merger would cripple competition in the Internet and long-distance telephone markets. In a statement, WorldCom Chief Executive and President Bernard Ebbers said the collapse of the deal would mean less innovation and choice, and higher rates for residential telephone service. The companies also said the conditions for the deal demanded by the Justice Department “would compromise the customer and financial benefits of the merger.” But Joel Klein, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, hailed the collapse of the merger pact. “The merger would have led to higher prices, lower service quality and less innovation for millions of American consumers and businesses,” he said in statement. Sprint Chairman and Chief Executive William Esrey said Sprint was not discussing a merger with any other company. ”We’re talking to no one. We have talked to no one,” he said in an interview on business TV network CNBC. “Sprint is not for sale,” he declared. Analysts said WorldCom and Sprint could become takeover targets for international companies seeking a foothold or a bigger presence in the U.S. market. Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGa.DE) (NYSE:DT – news) tops the list of prospective bidders. Also believed to be interested are Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (9432.T) (NYSE:NTT – news) and France Telecom (FTE.PA) (NYSE:FTE – news). “Deutsche Telekom has been visibly on the prowl,” said Richard Klugman, an analyst with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. ”I don’t know how to handicap who they are going to get, but certainly WorldCom and Sprint would be high on their list.” The German company wants to get into the U.S. market mainly to add customers and gain access to a fiber-optic network and Internet backbone. It has been linked to a string of possible targets, including Sprint and Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE:Q – news). Published reports earlier this week said Deutsche Telekom had approached wireless carrier VoiceStream Wireless Corp. (NasdaqNM:VSTR – news) about a takeover. Local phone company BellSouth Corp. (NYSE:BLS – news) could also re-emerge as a suitor for Sprint, analysts said. BellSouth bid for Sprint last autumn. Sources have said WorldCom could shed its consumer long-distance business and focus on the more lucrative segment of providing data, Internet and international communications services to corporations. The WorldCom-Sprint merger plan sparked controversy from the moment it was announced last October. The head of the Federal Communications Commission said it would hurt the robust competition that had driven down long-distance rates.