The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that AT&T is “stalking Europe for mergers” to offset ever-increasing competition and a nearly saturated handset market in the U.S. The carrier is considering potential takeover targets in the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands, among other markets, and could strike a deal by the end of the year.
The move would be a risky one, as the Journal points out. European markets are generally more competitive and more regulated than the U.S., and they don’t offer the growth potential seen in emerging markets.
But expanding to Europe would give AT&T a chance to consolidate a fairly fragmented market, and it might provide an opportunity to differentiate itself with an aggressive LTE build-out and innovative pricing schemes. More importantly, though, the Journal piece spotlights the growing trend of intercontinental wireless service providers. While U.S. operators have been very insular, behemoths like Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and most recently Japan’s Softbank have huge interests in North America. A move to expand to Europe from AT&T would finally make that trend a two-way street.