AT&T kills T-Mobile deal

December 20, 2011, 5:30 AM UTC

Year’s largest M&A deal bites the dust.

AT&T (T) this evening announced that it has agreed to end its $39 billion bid to buy wireless carrier T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom, following objections from U.S. regulators. In a statement, AT&T said:

The actions by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block this transaction do not change the realities of the U.S. wireless industry. It is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world, with a mounting need for more spectrum that has not diminished and must be addressed immediately. The AT&T and T-Mobile USA combination would have offered an interim solution to this spectrum shortage. In the absence of such steps, customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled.

Deals get canceled all of the time, but this one is particularly notable for three reasons. First, it would have been the year’s largest merger. Second, this is one of the few times that the Obama Administration has actually moved to block a large deal, rather than just request lots more information before approving.

Third, and arguably most problematic for AT&T: The telecom giant will be forced to pay a $3 billion breakup to Deutsche Telekom (plus take another $1 billion charge on spectrum rights). Pretty sure someone in AT&T’s government relations department will be looking for new work tomorrow. After all, you don’t agree to the largest M&A termination fee of all time if you have even an inkling of government opposition… right?

Sign up for my daily email newsletter on deals and deal-makers: