ATLANTA — Cingular Wireless and Britain's Vodafone Group both boosted their bids to $38 billion for AT&T Wireless Services Inc. on Monday, as the board of the third-largest U.S. mobile phone provider considered which company would ultimately buy it, according to people familiar with the talks.
Vodafone matched Cingular's offers at each stage of the process, a source said on condition of anonymity.
A deal with Cingular, whose latest offer is an 18% premium over AT&T Wireless' closing share price Friday, could slim the field of national wireless carriers to five from six, possibly easing the price wars battering the industry. However, Vodafone may have the edge because of regulatory issues, a source said, declining to elaborate.
There was no timetable on when AT&T Wireless, whose board gathered in New York, would decide on an offer.
AT&T Wireless, Cingular and Vodafone all declined to comment on the negotiations.
"We're pretty sure we'll find out soon what's going on one way or another," a source familiar with the discussions said on condition of anonymity. A second source also familiar with the talks called the situation "very competitive and very fluid."
Atlanta-based Cingular, the nation's No. 2 mobile phone provider, with 23.4 million customers, early Monday offered $14 a share for Redmond, Wash.-based AT&T Wireless, after offering $13 a share, or $35 billion, over the weekend, sources said.