PE Firms Among Bidders for Verizon Wireless Assets

(Reuters) – AT&T Inc (T.N) is among the bidders for Verizon Wireless’ roughly $3 billion in wireless assets the latter must divest as part of its purchase of Alltel Corp, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Others include a joint bid from private-equity firms Carlyle Group and Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts & Co and a separate bid from Providence Equity Partners LLC, the Journal said.

At least one cable provider also has expressed interest, one of the people told the paper.

AT&T is in the strongest financial position of the interested companies and is in a good position to walk away with a large chunk of the assets, the newspaper cited the people as saying.

When contacted by Reuters, an AT&T spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Separately, a Verizon spokesman declined to comment to the Journal on whether AT&T was likely to end up with the lion’s share of the Alltel divestitures. Verizon could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters.

Critics, including consumer advocates and Verizon’s smaller competitors, believe such a deal — allowing one giant telecom provider to transfer customers to another — would not be in the interest of consumers, according to the paper.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which must approve the divestitures, said it would examine affected markets and any competitive issues that a sale would raise as part of the approval process, the paper said.

Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Britain’s Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L), closed its acquisition of rural wireless provider Alltel Corp in early January. The merger created the biggest U.S. wireless provider by surpassing AT&T in terms of subscribers.

(Reporting by Ajay Kamalakaran in Bangalore; Editing by Valerie Lee)