California approves telephone mergers, clearing way for SBC to complete buy of AT&T

California officials approved SBC Communications Inc.'s purchase of AT&T Corp. on Friday, clearing the final regulatory hurdle for the $16 billion (Ђ13.7 billion) deal and opening the way for the historic telephone merger to close immediately.

The California Public Utility Commission also gave their consent to Verizon Communications Inc.'s planned purchase of MCI Inc. for about $7.5 billion (Ђ6.4 billion), though that deal is still awaiting approval in other states.

The votes came nearly 10 months after AT&T agreed to be acquired by its former subsidiary and follows approvals by two federal agencies, 36 other states and 14 other countries. SBC originally predicted the entire regulatory process might take almost a year and a half.

San Antonio-based SBC, one of the regional "Baby Bells" created by the 1984 breakup of AT&T's national monopoly on local and long-distance phone service, announced last month that it would rename itself AT&T upon completion of the deal.

Before the deal closes, AT&T will be paying a special dividend of $1.30 per share to its 2.3 million stockholders under the terms of the agreement with SBC, AP reported. V.A.

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