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AT&T buying Little Rock-based Alltel business in $780 million deal

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published January 22, 2013 at 8:33 a.m. Updated January 22, 2013 at 11:36 a.m.

— Atlantic Tele-Network says AT&T is buying its domestic retail wireless business operated under the Alltel name by Little Rock-based Allied Wireless Communications in a deal worth $780 million.

Allied serves roughly 585,000 customers in rural parts of Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina, and had revenue of about $350 million in the first nine months of 2012.

"We are pleased that AT&T recognizes the value of our U.S. wireless retail operations and is acquiring these assets," Atlantic Tele-Network Chief Executive Officer Michael T. Prior said in a statement. "Alltel's customers will benefit from access to a nationwide 4G network, a larger device selection, additional retail locations and a broader range of product offerings. Additionally, many of our employees should benefit from new career opportunities within AT&T. We will work closely with AT&T to close the transaction and to ensure a smooth transition for our customers and employees."

Allied licensed the Alltel brand in 2010 after Verizon bought Alltel in 2009 in a $28.1 billion deal. In 2010, Allied had about 200 employees in Little Rock and had plans to add about 150 more.

There was no immediate word on what the deal would mean for the employees in Little Rock. Speaking on a conference call Tuesday morning, Prior declined to answer a question about how the Little Rock workers would be affected.

In prepared remarks earlier in the call, Prior said many of the Alltel employees would benefit from "increased opportunities from being part of a larger organization like AT&T."

"A change like this is not easy," he said. "We would generally prefer to be expanding and building. But we believe this tranaction will ultimately be the best option for all of our stakeholders."

A company spokesman said it's "business as usual" until the deal closes and that no decisions have been made on what will happen to the Little Rock operations.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is said to be all-cash.

It is expected to close in the second half of the year.

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