Omnipoint to buy East/West; Purchase means gain of phone licenses throughout country


Omnipoint Corp., a Bethesda wireless telephone company, said yesterday that it has agreed to buy East/West Communications Inc. in a deal valued at $144 million in cash, stock and debt.

East/West, based in Rye, N.Y., is a holding company that has accumulated wireless phone licenses in various parts of the country. With the acquisition, Omnipoint gains phone licenses in Southern California; Reno, Nev.; Washington; and Sarasota, Fla.

The deal is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, and is expected to close by the end of the year.

"This transaction supplements our existing spectrum in the Washington, D.C., area and adds the second-largest market in the United States -- i.e., Los Angeles -- to our portfolio of licenses," Douglas G. Smith, president and chief executive officer of Omnipoint, said in a statement.

Omnipoint is being swallowed up by another company. VoiceStream Wireless Corp. of Bellevue, Wash., agreed in June to buy Omnipoint in a transaction initially valued at $4.5 billion. That purchase is also expected to be concluded by year's end.

VoiceStream, in turn, is widely rumored to be a takeover target. This speculation pushed VoiceStream's stock up $5.25 yesterday to close at $88.875.

Omnipoint's stock climbed $4.0625, closing at $75.0625. East/West shares jumped $11.50 to end at $24.50. Omnipoint said it did not want to wait for the VoiceStream deal to close before seizing the opportunity to buy East/West.

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