Sprint, Nextel herald 'future of communications'

IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Executives from Sprint Corp. and Nextel Communications Inc. took to a stage at the St. Regis Hotel in New York Wednesday to announce a definitive agreement to merge their two companies and create the third largest mobile phone company in the U.S.

Sprint Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gary Forsee and Timothy Donahue, the CEO of Nextel, trumpeted the strength and promise of the new company, to be called Sprint Nextel. The merged company will have a combined equity value of approximately US$70 billion, more than 35 million wireless subscribers and a nettwork covering an area of almost 262 million people.

The merger will also result in the spinoff of Sprint's local phone business into a separate company.

Addressing an audience of investment industry insiders and media, Nextel's Donahue called the combined company the "future of communications," and said that joining his company to Sprint will create a new telecommunications powerhouse, with spectrum rights, product portfolios and distribution networks that will allow it to compete with companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. and Cingular Wireless LLC, which recently merged with AT&T Wireless Services Inc.

Forsee will take over as CEO of the combined company, with Donahue acting as executive chairman. Further underscoring the theme of a "merger of equals," the company will also maintain its operational headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas, current home to Sprint, and an executive headquarters in Nextel's home of Reston, Virginia, Donahue said.

With the staffs of the two companies observing the proceedings over a live Webcast, both executives paid homage to the hard work of employees of both companies. However, both Forsee and Donahue made it clear that staff reductions would be unavoidable as the companies combine their operations and networks following regulatory approval of the merger, which is expected in the first six months of 2005.

While he declined to discuss details of where cuts might come, Forsee said that the company will work to eliminate overlaps between the two organizations and that it wouldn't make sense to move "thousands of employees" between Kansas and Reston, or Reston and Kansas.

According to Forsee, 22,000 employees who work with Sprint's local phone business will leave the merged company to work for that newly created entity.

Sprint Nextel also expects to realize huge savings by consolidating information technology as well as sales, marketing and administrative organizations. It will also try to extract better deals from suppliers by leveraging the company's increased size, Forsee said.

Total savings to the company through those "synergies" could total $12 billion, the executives said.

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