July 24, 2019 / 7:03 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Deutsche Telekom sets meeting as T-Mobile, Sprint deal nears approval-report

(Updates with context)

FRANKFURT, July 24 (Reuters) - Deutsche Telekom has called a leadership meeting on Wednesday in expectation of U.S. regulatory approval of the proposed merger of its U.S. T-Mobile unit with rival Sprint, according to business daily Handelsblatt.

A meeting to update Deutsche Telekom's supervisory board on U.S. strategy has been scheduled for 10:15 am (0815 GMT), Handelsblatt reported.

It cited unnamed sources as saying that officials at the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) were expected to give the nod to the $26 billion deal after months of negotiations to address antitrust concerns arising from the deal.

T-Mobile, in which Deutsche Telekom owns a 63% stake, and Sprint, controlled by Japan's Softbank have offered a series of concessions, including divesting T-Mobile's Boost prepaid brand and a slab of spectrum to alleviate DoJ concerns on market dominance.

The merger would reduce the number of market players from four to three, which critics say would leave consumers facing less choice and higher prices.

To address that, the parties have held talks with Dish on enabling the cable TV company's entry into the mobile market, but the talks have dragged as the two sides haggle over restrictions on the further sale of the assets.

Deutsche Telekom was not immediately available for comment.

The DoJ told T-Mobile US and Sprint Corp earlier this month to wrap up a deal by the end of this week to sell assets that are to be divested as a condition for their tie-up, or face a lawsuit aimed at stopping the transaction.

In June, a group of U.S. state attorneys general filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York to block the merger, arguing it would cost consumers more than $4.5 billion annually.

The suit is backed by the Communications Workers of America labour union which says the deal would result in heavy job losses. (Reporting by Douglas Busvine in Frankfurt and Tassilo Hummel in Berlin)

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