Blackstone, UnitedHealth Exercise Restraint; Critics Slam Sprint-T-Mobile Merger

It takes more than just deep pockets to be a successful dealmaker or investor it also takes restraint. Today seemed like a day of restraint for Wall Street as Blackstone (BX) has decided to walk away from its pursuit of hotel REIT LaSalle (LHO) and UnitedHealth (UNH) reportedly dropped out of the bidding for AthenaHealth (ATHN) . While wildly different business -- Blackstone a PE firm and UnitedHealth one of the nation's largest healthcare services companies -- the two companies have a lot in common. When a real estate portfolio goes up for sale, whether it be in the U.S. Europe or elsewhere, odds are Blackstone is at least kicking the tires and getting a dealbook. Same with UnitedHealth, as The Deal's Armie Lee pointed out last week, "when a business goes up for sale -- be it a back-office services provider or a payer technology company or your basic insurer, odds are UnitedHealth is on the short-list of would-be acquirers." To be sure, neither of these companies are going to go hungry for deals. UnitedHealth is reported to be in the process of acquiring Advent-backed specialty pharmacy operator Genoa Healthcare while it is also thought to be eying a purchase of Tenet Healthcare Inc.'s (THC) healthcare business process services unit, Conifer. Blackstone, for its part, on Thursday, lifted its bid for Australian landlord Investa Office Fund to $2.4 billion besting a rival offer from Canada's Oxford Properties Group.

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A tie-up between Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (TMUS) would encourage collusion between the newly created entity and the nation's two largest carriers: Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) . That's according to the American Antitrust Institute, who's president, Diana Moss, chatted with The Deal's David Hatch about the problems with creating a third dominant player in the U.S. wireless game. "All remaining rivals would have the same market share," Moss told Hatch. That's a "setup for the firms' losing their incentive to compete head-to-head" and instead following each other on rate increases and other business decisions, she explained." While T-Mobile has said it would maintain its maverick style after acquiring Sprint, Moss isn't buying it. Dish Network (DISH) raised similar fears in its own proclamation against the merger. T-Mobile would be "much more aligned with the pricing incentives of these incumbents than it would be with T-Mobile or Sprint as standalone companies," the satellite television provider reasoned. To be sure, supporters of the merger also caution that AT&T, as the leading carrier, would have had less economic incentive to disrupt the marketplace after acquiring T-Mobile than T-Mobile would after buying Sprint. We now await responses from the various regulators on the complaints.

Markets Today: Stocks were mixed on Thursday, Sept. 6, as investors braced for another potentially damaging escalation in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China and as August jobs numbers fell short of estimates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 21 points, or 0.1%, to 25,996, the S&P 500 lost 0.4%, and the Nasdaq declined 0.9%.

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