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Hawaii looks into AT&T merger

Hawaii is among nine states reviewing AT&T Inc.’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA Inc. prompted subpoenas of AT&T and Sprint Nextel Corp. over antitrust concerns.

Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, and the U.S. Justice Department have issued subpoenas, the company said in a June 28 letter posted on the Federal Communications Commission’s website. AT&T Inc. got requests for data from the same states, Michael Balmoris, a company spokesman, said.

“Pennsylvania and a number of states are looking at the transaction,” James Donahue, Pennsylvania’s chief deputy attorney general, said in an interview. “We’re taking in all the information and have reached no conclusion.”

The disclosure of the states’ subpoenas reveals a growing scrutiny of AT&T’s bid to combine the second- and fourth-largest wireless carriers to create a new market leader, ahead of No. 1 Verizon Wireless. The states are seeking data for customer habits, including when consumers switch carriers, which would help their regulators evaluate the level of competition in their respective markets.

AT&T disclosed on June 21 the Justice Department had broadened its demands for information on the proposed deal.

“Not unexpectedly, some state attorneys general offices have sought information about our merger, and we have responded in an appropriate and timely manner,” Balmoris said in an e-mail.

Sprint was required to disclose the requests for information under terms of a protective order issued by the FCC, which is reviewing the transaction announced on March 20 in tandem with the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Sprint said in the letter that the states and department also sent “civil investigation demands,” which are similar to subpoenas, requiring the company to provide “full, unredacted copies of all materials that it has submitted to the commission regarding the proposed transaction.”

David Kerwin, a Washington state assistant attorney general, said in an interview that the acquisition is “a large matter that potentially affects a number of people.”

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson “is concerned about the merger,” said Ben Wogsland, a spokesman for her office. “It’s hard to see how four companies going down to three, basically less competition, would benefit consumers,” he said.

Florida issued a civil investigation demand to Sprint, said Jennifer Davis, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney general.

Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general’s office, confirmed the investigation, declining to comment further. Rod Kimura, Hawaii’s deputy attorney general, declined to comment.

Representatives for attorneys general in Arizona, Illinois, and New York didn’t immediately return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said “the investigation is ongoing.”

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