- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

ATLANTA (AP) — Cingular Wireless and Britain’s Vodafone Group PLC boosted their bids to $38 billion for AT&T; Wireless Services Inc. yesterday, as the board of the nation’s third-largest mobile-phone provider pondered which company would ultimately buy it, according to people familiar with the talks.

Vodafone matched Cingular’s offers in each stage of the process and did so again yesterday, a source said on the condition of anonymity.

A deal with Cingular, whose latest offer is an 18 percent premium over AT&T; Wireless’ closing share price Friday, could narrow the field of national wireless carriers from six to five, potentially easing the price wars battering the industry.

However, Vodafone may have the edge because of regulatory issues, a source said, declining to elaborate.

There was no timetable on when AT&T; Wireless, whose board gathered in New York, would decide which offer to select.

AT&T; Wireless, Cingular and Vodafone all declined to comment on the negotiations.

“We’re pretty sure we’ll find out soon what’s going on one way or another,” a source familiar with the discussions said on the condition of anonymity. A second source also familiar with the talks called the situation “very competitive and very fluid.”

Atlanta-based Cingular, the nation’s No. 2 mobile-phone provider with 23.4 million customers, early yesterday offered $14 a share for Redmond, Wash.-based AT&T; Wireless after offering $13 a share or $35 billion over the weekend, two sources said.

Vodafone PLC of Britain also bid $35 billion over the weekend and raised its bid to $38 billion yesterday.

Other suitors were NTT DoCoMo of Japan, which already owns 16 percent of AT&T; Wireless, and Nextel Communications of Reston. Only Cingular and Vodafone submitted bids by Friday’s deadline.

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