Could this French company buy T-Mobile US?

It was announced Thursday that French wireless carrier Iliad had made a bid to buy T-Mobile US, the American branch of the German wireless company T-Mobile International AG. 

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
In this 2008 file photo, a T-Mobile retail store is shown in Times Square in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Iliad is making a bid to buy T-Mobile US. Wait a second, you might say. Who's trying to buy T-Mobile US? 

That's a question currently being tossed around after The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Iliad, a French telecommunications company, has made a $15 billion cash offer for a 56.6 percent stake in T-Mobile US, the American branch of the German wireless company T-Mobile International AG. 

"The US mobile market is large and attractive," reads an official Iliad statement. "T-Mobile US has successfully established a disruptive position, which in many ways, is similar to the one Iliad has built in France." 

Iliad says it has submitted its official offer to the T-Mobile board, though it remains to be seen whether that deal will be accepted. It further noted that should a deal go through, it would not be violating any antitrust laws given that the company has no presence in the US. However, The New York Times has reported that the deal was already turned down by Deutsche Telekom of Germany, the majority owner of T-Mobile US. 

In recent months, T-Mobile US has been in discussions to be acquired by rival American wireless provider Sprint. In that deal, T-Mobile US has been valued at more than $30 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the matter." 

In a conference call with analysts Thursday morning regarding the company's earnings, T-Mobile US chief executive John Legere was vague in his description of the deals that T-Mobile currently has on the table. 

"We have multiple versions of things that we can do inorganically with this company, and multiple versions of timing as to when we do them," he says. "We've got multiple options to consider and will consider."

Should Iliad's offer go through, the money would be provided via a "combination of debt and equity," the company noted, adding that it has the "support of leading international banks for the acquisition of debt." Iliad founder Xavier Niel would participate an equity capital increase of around €2 billion ($2.6 billion), the company said. 

This deal could test the limits of what the French company is capable of. As of Thursday, its market value stood at roughly $16 billion, while T-Mobile had a value of about $25 billion, according to The New York Times

Mr. Niel founded Iliad in 1999. Based in Paris, the company has disrupted traditional wireless models of doing business as a result of its extremely cheap services when compared to more established French wireless players such as Orange S.A. and Bouygues Telecom. 

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