( AWE) has given its largest shareholder,
-- and any other potential buyers -- until Feb. 13 to submit final proposals.
The No. 3 cell-phone service is hoping the "multiple approaches from multiple sources" that CEO John Zeglis spoke of last week turn into a host of competing purchase offers next month. AT&T Wireless has been at the center of intensive merger speculation over the past week, sparked by an unofficial proposal from rival Cingular.
Industry observers have long called for a consolidation of the six-player wireless market, and many agree that the combination of Cingular and AT&T Wireless makes sense. The two outfits use the same wireless network technology, while Cingular is strong in residential markets and AT&T Wireless is big with business users. And Cingular, a joint venture between
( SBC) and
( BLS), has the financial strength to pull off the deal.
Meanwhile, AT&T Wireless has spent recent months wowing observers with its poor performance. The company last week posted a quarterly loss, only narrowly managing to avoid losing subscribers despite strong industrywide growth.
Other potential suitors, including 17% stakeholder NTT DoCoMo, smaller rival
( NXTL) and the world's No. 2 player,
, have been mentioned. But some observers say the deal wouldn't be as compelling to any of them as it would be for Cingular.
On Tuesday, AT&T Wireless rose 25 cents to $11.18, and DoCoMo slipped 60 cents to $21.82.