There’s a report that Amazon might want to buy Sprint’s Boost Mobile business. But one veteran telecom analyst, Craig Moffett of the research firm MoffettNathanson, bluntly dubbed the speculation as “batsh*t crazy.”
Sprint has promised regulators it will get rid of its prepaid wireless Boost Mobile subsidiary if its merger with rival T-Mobile is approved. Reuters reported Thursday evening that Amazon (AMZN) was interested in acquiring Boost as well as any wireless spectrum that Sprint and T-Mobile might be looking to sell off. Amazon, Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (TMUS) were not immediately available for comment.
But Moffett said in a report that “the idea that Amazon would actually want to enter the wireless market is bad enough. Over its now forty-year history, the wireless industry has never generated a return on invested capital meaningfully in excess of its cost of capital.” “And that’s before the entry of a player like Amazon,” he said, referencing Amazon’s penchant for sacrificing profit margins in order to generate big sales and dominate a market.
Moffett also pointed out that he realizes Amazon could benefit from owning wireless spectrum since it plans to operate a drone delivery network as well as driverless delivery vehicles. But he added that “the idea that one would want to operate their own proprietary network for such purposes is economically insane.”
Running a network is incredibly expensive. And even though Amazon could arguably afford such costs, Moffett isn’t sure Amazon would want to deal with the headaches that would arise from being in the telecom business.
“If having a network for the purposes of drones or driverless vehicles is ever going to be mission critical to Amazon’s business, it would be a strategic blunder of epic proportions to bring such a network in-house,” Moffett wrote. “Would Amazon really want to open itself to the regulatory scrutiny and limitations that come with being a telecom provider?”
Even though there are serious doubts about whether Amazon really wants to get into the telecom business, it appears that investors are worried enough about the possibility that Amazon could wreak havoc on the economics of wireless just as it has done for retail, media and cloud computing.
Shares of wireless giants Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) each fell more than 4% Friday. (AT&T is the owner of CNN parent WarnerMedia.) And another analyst, Timothy Horan of Oppenheimer, thinks that wireless could make sense for Amazon to target as a new growth opportunity. He noted that wireless could be yet another service it could bundle and sell as part of an Amazon Prime subscription.
“The US wireless industry is a very large and inefficient market,” Horan wrote in a report. “We think this is a perfect market for Amazon to enter and to be disruptive.”