Verizon Wireless to buy Unicel parent

Verizon Wireless will acquire Rural Cellular Corp., parent company of Unicel, for $2.67 billion, the companies announced Monday.

The move, prompted by Verizon Wireless’s efforts to expand its coverage in rural areas, will take on RCC’s more than 700,000 customers in 15 states, including New Hampshire. The acquisition also increases Verizon Wireless’s coverage by 4.7 million licensed POPs, or population.

The deal — approved by the boards of both companies — specifies that Rural Cellular stockholders will receive $45 per share in cash for a total equity price of $757 million, a 16 percent premium over the average closing price in recent weeks, said company officials.

RCC offers wireless services in rural areas through Unicel and uses Verizon Wireless for the vast majority of its “outcollect” roaming minutes. RCC also uses Cingular and T-Mobile.

Verizon Wireless expects to reduce its roaming and operations expenses by $1 billion as well as increase its customer base.

As of March 31, Alexandria, Minn.-based RCC had 716,000 customers in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Verizon Wireless, based in Basking Ridge, N.J., is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone. It has over 62.1 million customers across the country served by 67,000 employees. — CINDY KIBBE

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