LITTLE ROCK, ARK. Communications company Alltel Corp. has struck a deal to acquire rival Western Wireless Corp. for about $4.4 billion in cash and stock, a move that would make Alltel the nation's fifth-largest cellular telephone service provider.
The deal, announced Monday and expected to close by midyear, would leave Alltel with about 10 million wireless customers in 33 states and nearly $10 billion in revenue. Alltel also is assuming $1.5 billion in debt in the deal.
Alltel also stands to gain about 1.6 million customers in Austria, Ireland and four other countries. Western owns the Cellular One brand.
"This transaction strengthens Alltel's position as the nation's top regional communications company and makes sense financially and strategically," Alltel President Scott Ford said.
According to the joint statement, the deal will make Alltel, of Little Rock, Ark., the nation's fifth-largest cellular telephone service provider, up one notch from its current position as No. 6.
The transaction adds California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming as states under Alltel's service area, which is chiefly in the South and West. The deal expands Alltel's number of customers in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.
The deal is the latest wireless phone industry consolidation following an agreement last month for Overland Park-based Sprint Corp. to buy Nextel Communications Inc. for $35 billion, bolstering Sprint's position as the nation's third-largest wireless service.
"The wireless industry is gravitating swiftly to a smaller number of large national and regional players," Western Wireless Chairman John Stanton said. "The combination of Western Wireless with Alltel creates a rural operator using multiple technologies with the largest footprint in the country."