The staff of Fortune is assembling its predictions for 2017 in our annual feature, the Fortune Crystal Ball, now on newsstands in the December 1 issue of the magazine. Here’s one of our forecasts.
Helped along by low interest rates, the merger boom of 2016’s last quarter will keep rolling. Here, the Fortune staff’s best guesses at who’s next.
Comcast Will Buy T-Mobile
T-Mobile has been by far the fastest growing U.S. wireless carrier since John Legere took over as CEO in late 2012. Legere’s un-carrier strategy to break with traditional market practices like two year contracts and high roaming fees helped T-Mobile more than double its subscriber base to 69 million.
In 2014, Sprint made a run at T-Mobile, majority owned by Deutsche Telekom, but antitrust regulators waved them off, fearing consolidation would hurt consumers.
However, that same logic likely wouldn’t bar a new entrant in wireless from acquiring Legere’s treasure. And Comcast
, the cable TV giant that also owns NBC Universal, has said it plans to offer a wireless service sometime in 2017.
Comcast’s play depends on using leased airwaves from Verizon
, but Legere says sooner or later the cable giant will realize it needs “ownership economics.” And what better carrier to own that T-Mobile? —Aaron Pressman
A Major Player Will Nab Netflix
There have been plenty of rumored suitors for Netflix, including Apple, Google and even Disney
. Any company in the entertainment space drools at the company’s millions of subscribers and its growing stable of movies and TV shows.
It would be an expensive mouthful, to be sure, with a market value of $50 billion. Plus Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said he doesn’t want to sell. But he may not have much of a choice if the company’s spending on content keeps ramping up—it will hit $6 billion next year and it’s still growing.
While it would take a suitor with very deep pockets, Netflix
may have to go courting if its stock price starts to flag. —Mathew Ingram
Amazon Will Buy Barnes & Noble
After years of siphoning away books sales from Barnes & Noble, Amazon
is now taking the fight to the brick-and-mortar world with its own stores. But so far, Amazon’s bookstore fleet is comprised of only four open or announced locations, and word is the online retailer has designs for potentially hundreds of bookstores that could also sell other items, like Amazon’s electronics.
operates 638 stores, is struggling and has a stock market value of $760 million—a pittance for its deep-pocketed, freewheeling rival. The risk? Antitrust regulators will close the book on it. —Phil Wahba
For more on mergers and acquisitions, watch this Fortune video:
Slack Will Sell Out
Slack, the business-oriented chat product, has tons of traction if not profit. It would make a nice pickup for a company that wants to acquire potential customers and perhaps bask in Slack’s reflected glow.
Any Slack acquisition—by IBM? by Cisco? by Oracle? by Salesforce?—would follow in the footsteps of Microsoft’s
2012 buyout of chat platform Yammer. —Barb Darrow
Under Armour Will Merge with Lululemon
Athleisure’s new look could pair yoga pants with Stephen Curry basketball shoes. A merger would combine Lululemon’s strength with yoga-obsessed women with the natural fit Under Armour
has found with male athletes. Lululemon has more expertise as a retailer and commands higher price points, while Under Armour could help the Vancouver-based peer establish a shoe business and build wholesale relationships to expand distribution. Both have set lofty goals: Lululemon wants to double the business within five years to $4 billion in revenue, while Under Armour projects $7 billion by 2018. But with industry leader Nike
targeting $50 billion by 2020, an acquisition may be best to take on the swoosh. —John Kell
Private Equity Will Nab Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Now that it’s sold off most of its software and enterprise services businesses to focus on high-end servers, storage and “converged” data center hardware could well end up getting acquired itself. Rumors have surfaced over the past few months that private equity companies have shown an interest. And why not? There’s a precedent for this type of deal. Vista Equity Partners bought Ping Identity for about $600 million after its $1.79 billion purchase of Marketo earlier in the year, and Thoma Bravo bought Qlik for $3 billion. Expect HPE
would fetch a far heftier price tag, of course. —Barb Darrow
Simon Property Will Acquire Sears
Simon Property Group
, the largest U.S. mall developer, formed a joint venture with Sears
last year to hive off some of its best locations and charge other retailers a premium. It follows that Simon could go one step further and buy the chain outright, then sell off or carve up the remaining space for other stores. —Phil Wahba