AT&T Wireless officially on the block

AT&T Wireless Services Inc. is officially for sale, according to published reports.

According to the New York Times , AT&T Wireless hired Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. to help the service provider sort through bids. Other reports state that Cingular Wireless LLC and NTT DoCoMo Inc. have already made initial offers to acquire the third largest mobile service provider in the U.S.

Cingular is the second largest U.S. mobile operator in number of subscribers, behind Verizon Wireless.

AT&T Wireless still has not officially commented on the reports or any acquisition activity. Reports estimate that the operator will fetch US$11 per share, or about $30 billion.

Last week the rumor mill was working overtime as Cingular, Vodafone Group PLC, T-Mobile USA Inc., Nextel Communications Inc. and DoCoMo were all supposedly making a bid for AT&T Wireless.

"We believe that consolidation among the six national operators would lead to improved industry fundamentals through lower operating expenses (lower selling and marketing costs), lower churn and more efficient uses of capital and spectrum," says John Hodulik, an analyst at UBS Warburg LLC. "Press reports stating AT&T Wireless' intent to sell the company suggest that consolidation may have finally arrived."

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