PE Firms Bid on Verizon’s Wireless Assets

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Wireless telephone assets being divested by Verizon Communications have attracted bids from at least three private equity firms, sources familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

Private equity firm Blackstone Group LP (BX.N) submitted a bid by last week’s deadline, while Carlyle Group [CYL.UL] and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co [KKR.UL] made a joint offer, said the sources, who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak with the media.

In addition to the private equity firms, rival phone companies also participated in the auction, the sources said.

U.S. Cellular Corp submitted a bid, one of the sources said. AT&T Inc (T.N) also expressed interest, according to a second source.

Verizon previously said that more than 30 bidders had indicated interest in the assets and the auction would take place over several months, with multiple rounds of bidding.

Verizon completed its acquisition of rural wireless provider Alltel Corp in January. The merger created the biggest U.S. wireless provider, surpassing AT&T in terms of subscribers.

As part of gaining regulatory approval for the Alltel acquisition, Verizon Wireless was required to divest airwaves in 105 markets. Verizon Wireless is owned by Verizon and Britain’s Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L) (VOD.N).

An announcement of a deal could be several weeks away, one source said.

The private equity firms, AT&T and Verizon declined to comment. U.S. Cellular could not be immediately reached for comment. (Reporting by Sinead Carew and Megan Davies in New York and Jessica Hall in Philadelphia; editing by Carol Bishopric) (For more M&A news and our DealZone blog, go to here)