Liberty Receives DOJ Approval to Acquire AT&T’s Puerto Rico, USVI Operations
Tuesday, October 27, 2020 | Comments

Liberty Latin America entered into a consent judgment with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that will allow it to complete its previously announced acquisition of AT&T’s wireless and wireline operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As part of the judgment, Liberty Latin America agreed to divest certain business-to-business (B2B) operations in Puerto Rico. Liberty expects a preliminary court order in the next few days that will allow the company to close its transaction with AT&T.

The acquisition does not affect AT&T’s First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) commitments in the region. AT&T will retain First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) responsibilities and relationships, as well as its dedicated FirstNet network core and service capabilities. Following the close of the acquisition, Liberty will support AT&T’s FirstNet build in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Liberty said it has already entered into an agreement to divest part of its B2B operations in Puerto Rico. The divestiture is expected to close promptly, pending appropriate regulatory approval. The approval process for that divestiture is not expected to affect the closing date for Liberty’s acquisition of the AT&T assets.

On Oct. 23, the DOJ filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed acquisition. The department also filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive harm alleged in the department’s complaint.

“The merger, as originally structured, would have eliminated competition for critical fiber-optic-based telecommunications services that businesses in Puerto Rico rely on every day,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the DOJ’s antitrust division. “Today’s settlement will ensure that businesses throughout Puerto Rico continue to benefit from vigorous competition in the provision of these services.”

The DOJ filed its complaint, noting that Liberty and AT&T are two of the three largest wireline telecommunications providers in Puerto Rico and own two of the three most extensive fiber-based network infrastructures on the island. The DOJ said that competition between Liberty and AT&T resulted in lower prices and higher quality services for Puerto Rico customers and argued that the combination of Liberty and AT&T would leave many customers with only one alternative and others with no competitive choice at all, likely resulting in increased prices and lower quality services for enterprise customers across Puerto Rico.

Under the settlement, Liberty and AT&T must divest certain wireless telecommunications assets and customer accounts in Puerto Rico to WorldNet Communications or an alternative purchaser approved by the U.S. WorldNet is a Puerto Rico corporation and is the largest locally owned telecommunications provider in Puerto Rico.

Liberty Latin said it and AT&T plan to close the transaction on Oct. 31. AT&T announced in October 2019 that it planned to sell its Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Island operations for $1.95 billion.

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