(Reuters) - It will be difficult for the U.S. justice department to approve a merger between any of the top four U.S. wireless phone companies, said William Baer, assistant attorney general for the antitrust division, the New York Times reported.
Baer's comments come amid speculation that T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.N) and Sprint Corp (NYS:S) might consummate a deal in coming months.
He said any deal would face intense scrutiny because consumers have enjoyed "much more favorable competitive conditions" since the division blocked a proposed merger between AT&T Inc (NYS:T) and T-Mobile in 2011, the NYT reported. (http://link.reuters.com/qec56v)
"It's going to be hard for someone to make a persuasive case that reducing four firms to three is actually going to improve competition for the benefit of American consumers," he told the newspaper, without referring to any specific deal.
Baer is expected to warn antitrust lawyers at a meeting of the New York State Bar Association on Thursday that the antitrust department too often sees merger proposals that include little more than token efforts to deal with competitive issues, the paper reported.
Such deals are often attempts to eliminate a big market participant, Baer is expected to say, while giving up something to a tiny competitor that does not play a significant role in industry competition, the NYT reported.
(Reporting by Shubhankar Chakravorty in Bangalore; Editing by Kirti Pandey)