French telecom Iliad making a surprise $15B bid for control of T-Mobile US [update]

Update: Iliad has confirmed with a press release that it is indeed making the bid for T-Mobile, and has submitted the offer to T-Mo's Board of Directors. Iliad's owners and Board of Directors have unanimously approved the deal, which would see Iliad paying $15 billion in cash for 56.6 percent of T-Mobile, valuing it at $36.20 per share, a 42 percent premium over its current stock price.

Original story: In a bid that's come way out of left field, French telecommunications firm Iliad SA is also offering to buy a controlling stake in T-Mobile US. T-Mobile, itself a subsidiary of T-Mobile Germany, has been engaged in long-running negotiations with US rival Sprint. The $15 billion bid from Iliad comes as a surprise, not just for their previously unexpressed interest, but that Iliad is a smaller company that T-Mobile in both terms of subscribers and value.

Iliad's carrier subsidiary Free Mobile has a little over 7 million subscribers, while T-Mobile just crossed 50 million. Iliad as a company is valued at $16 billion (€12 billion), while T-Mobile US has a market capitalization of $24.8 billion. Iliad has apparently offered T-Mobile "about $33 a share" for the company... less than a 6% premium on the trading price of TMUS before the revelation of the proposal. Iliad is seeking a 56.6% share that would give them de facto control of T-Mobile. Regardless of how much Iliad offers for a takeover of T-Mobile, but they'd be looking at taking on an enormous debt load.

Iliad's Free Mobile has only been around since 2012, and has captured more than 12% of the French cellular subscriber market. They've been incredibly aggressive with their pricing, offering plans for a little as €2 ($2.68) a month.

But there's a bit of a kindred spirit between T-Mobile US and Free Mobile. Both have pushed to simplify the mobile phone process in eliminating (or avoiding from the start) subsidies on phones and dumping formal contract plans.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Iliad

Derek Kessler

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.