“AT&T, thwarted by regulators nearly two years ago on a planned $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, is back in the merger hunt, albeit with a much smaller target,” William Alden reports for The New York Times. “The telecommunications giant said on Friday that it had agreed to acquire its smaller rival Leap Wireless International for nearly $1.2 billion, the latest sign of consolidation in the telecommunications industry.”

“AT&T is paying $15 a share in cash for Leap, a prepaid cellphone service provider — a premium of 88 percent from Leap’s closing price on Friday,” Alden reports. “Under the terms of the deal, AT&T would gain 5 million new customers and acquire Leap network, licenses and retail stores. Leap had $2.8 billion of net debt as of April 15.”

Alden reports, “Leap, based in San Diego, operates under the Cricket brand name, which AT&T plans to retain. Its network covers about 96 million people in 35 states. ‘Cricket’s employees, operations and distribution will jump start AT&T’s expansion into the highly competitive prepaid segment,’ said Brad Burns, AT&T spokesman… If the deal goes through, Cricket customers will get access to AT&T’s 4G mobile network, and AT&T will expand Cricket’s reach. For AT&T, the deal will give it access to the prepaid market.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]