Cingular Buys AT&T Wireless

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Cingular Wireless has agreed to buy AT&T Wireless Services for around $41 billion.

Vodafone Group, Europe's largest mobile phone company, says it withdrew from the bidding after it "concluded that it was no longer in its shareholder's best interests to continue discussions." The company, based in Newbury, England, says it remains committed to its current partnership in Verizon Wireless, the dominant operator in the U.S. wireless market.

Vodafone owns a 45 percent share of Verizon Wireless in a partnership that is now four years old. Verizon Communications owns a controlling interest in the mobile phone company.

AT&T Wireless Services has accepted Cingular's offer of $15 per share, or about $41 billion, according to Cingular.

The deal was signed in New York around 2 a.m. on Tuesday after a weekend of bidding and counter-bidding between Cingular and Vodafone, according to U.S. media reports.

Representatives from Cingular, in Atlanta, Vodafone, and AT&T Wireless Services could not immediately be reached for comment.

Market Consolidation

The purchase of AT&T Wireless by Cingular will consolidate the U.S. wireless market from six major companies down to five. The other four companies in the market are Nextel Communications, T-Mobile USA, Sprint, and Verizon.

Cingular is currently the second-largest wireless company in the U.S. with 24 million subscribers. The operator is jointly owned by SBC Communications of San Antonio, which owns 60 percent, and BellSouth of Atlanta, according to the company's Web site.

AT&T Wireless employs approximately 30,000 people in some 500 locations across the U.S., and as of the end of last year reported about 22 million consolidated subscribers, the company says. AT&T Wireless split from AT&T in July 2001 to become an independent company.

A conference call to officially announce details of the deal has been scheduled for 10 a.m. EST.

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