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Sprint CEO Hesse Says Company Will Wait To Consider Mergers

--CEO thinks regulators would be willing to consider wireless industry mergers --Sprint is focused on $5 billion network upgrade project --CEO would consider a takeover opportunity if the timing was right By Greg Bensinger Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- For Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), now isn't the time for a merger. "Clearly, the time is not ideal based upon where our shares are currently trading," said Chief Executive Dan Hesse on a conference call with analysts on Wednesday. Still, Hesse said he thought regulators would be willing to consider wireless industry mergers, despite blocking the $39 billion tie-up last year of AT&T Inc. (T) and T-Mobile USA. In February, Sprint nearly approved a deal to buy pay-as-you-go rival MetroPCS Communications Inc., and last year it considered buying Deutsche Telekom AG's (DTE) T-Mobile, according to people familiar with those discussions. Like its competitors, Sprint is seeking access to more of the wireless airwaves, or spectrum, that fuel customer and revenue growth. The Overland Park, Kan.-based carrier is focused on its ongoing $5 billion network upgrade project, Hesse said. Ideally, Sprint would concentrate on the project through next year, then "let's talk about consolidation in 2014 when we have this behind us," he said, noting that he hoped the carrier's stock price would improve relative to its competitors. At the annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, Sprint Chairman James Hance said Sprint's share price was a disappointment. "Your frustrations are keenly felt," he said. Sprint shares fell 45% last year, though they rebounded 5.5% in 2012 prior to Wednesday. Shares traded one cent lower, or 0.4%, at $2.46 early Wednesday afternoon. Nonetheless, Hesse said he'd consider a takeover opportunity if the timing was right. "Sometimes something might happen where you might see synergies decrease substantially if you didn't move," he said. -By Greg Bensinger, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-4676;

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