The pending nuptials between Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (TMUS 0.03%) are still waiting on regulators to offer their final blessings, and there are no assurances that vows will ultimately be exchanged. Colby Synesael at Cowen put out a cautionary analyst note on Tuesday, suggesting that there's a 60% chance that we won't be hearing wedding bells here.
Synesael has a neutral rating on the stock and a $4 price target. This week's uninspiring third-quarter report isn't going to ease fears that Sprint's going to be in a world of hurt if it has to go it alone as the country's fourth-largest wireless carrier. He sees Sprint downsizing and turning its attention only to its strongest markets if the deal falls through, but what if there are other suitors here? Comcast (CMCSA -0.17%), DISH Network (DISH 5.06%), and Amazon.com (AMZN 0.37%) are some of the names that may find themselves on bended knee later this year if T-Mobile and Sprint fail to say "I do" to the $26.5 billion deal.
One of the better-performing segments at cable, broadband, and content giant Comcast in last week's quarterly update was the gain in its nascent mobile business. Xfinity Mobile has now topped 2 million lines, scoring 261,000 net adds in the fourth quarter.
If Comcast wants to do more than just upsell its Xfinity cable and internet customers to the mobile platform it launched in 2017, it can naturally grow up in a hurry by acquiring Sprint. It can then rebrand Sprint's 54.2 million total wireless connections under the Xfinity banner to become a major player in wireless -- a smart move given the iffy outlook for its flagship cable television offering.
It's true that Comcast is a very big company already, but regulatory agencies aren't likely to balk at a Sprint buyout. It would place the country's fourth-largest wireless provider in stronger hands, easing competitive concerns that they may have in a T-Mobile and Sprint combination.
If we pivot from cable to satellite, DISH Network is another logical buyer. Its rival DIRECTV is already part of a wireless juggernaut, and DISH has made no bones about its dreams to become a player in the upcoming 5G revolution.
Blessed with spectrum but having to start from scratch will be challenging. Sprint in its arsenal would naturally change the narrative here. DISH was one of the names circulating as a potential buyer of Sprint's Boost Mobile business last year when Sprint was offering to unload the prepaid wireless division to improve its chances of merger approval with T-Mobile, but why not buy all of Sprint if it goes back on the market?
The big hurdle here isn't regulatory since the Department of Justice is probably hoping DISH enters this market with or without a T-Mobile-Sprint combination to give consumers a new choice. The challenge for DISH buying Sprint would be financial, as it's the smallest of the three companies in this list as well as the most leveraged. DISH Network would have to hope that Sprint is willing to take more stock than cash in a deal, and given Sprint's hazy prospects if it becomes an old maid, that's a real possibility.
The world's leading online retailer is the least likely to get a Sprint deal through the regulatory goalie net, but I'll go with Amazon since it was another name mentioned as a potential buyer of Boost Mobile in the springtime of last year. If it was reportedly a top candidate to pay $3 billion to $4 billion for Boost, why not dig deeper and buy all of Sprint?
Amazon entering into the wireless market may have seemed bizarre a few years ago, but as it opens brick-and-mortar locations, builds up its localized infrastructure for same-day delivery, and obviously the jaw-dropping purchase of Whole Foods there doesn't seem to be anything that Amazon won't do. Sure, Amazon doesn't have the best of histories when it comes to mobile. Fire Phone, anyone? However, Amazon's end game has always been about establishing connections with consumers that it can provide goods and services to over time, and a Sprint deal isn't that outrageous in that scenario.
Investors may not consider Sprint a top stock to buy these days, but Comcast, DISH, and Amazon may see things differently.