Cingular Buys AT&T Wireless

Cingular Wireless beat out several last-minute contenders over the weekend to win the bidding war for AT&T Wireless.

Cingular Wireless LLC on Tuesday announced plans to buy AT&T Wireless, following years of rumors and an 11th-hour bidding battle with Vodafone Group.

Cingular, a joint venture between SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., will pay some $41 billion in an all-cash deal that is expected to close by years end if shareholders and federal regulators approve it. The new company will retain Cingulars name and its Atlanta headquarters, as well as its current CEO, Stan Sigman.

If the merger happens it will create the largest wireless carrier in the United States, surpassing Verizon Wireless. If the merger happened today, the combined company would have 46 million customers and annual revenues exceeding $32 billion, as well as coverage in 97 of the top 100 markets.

"This new company is going to put others in the rearview mirror," said John Zeglis, CEO of AT&T Wireless, in Redmond, Wash., speaking today at a press conference to announce the deal. "Hey Verizon, can you hear us now?"

Tough talk aside, Zeglis plans to leave the company when the merger is complete.

"One desk, one salary for the CEO," he said. "Ill only stay for whatever transition help that Stan might ask me for."

In justifying the massive purchase, Cingular officials gave the same reasons that analysts have given for several speculative months.