Qwest increases offer to buy MCI

Telco hopes to prevent Verizon from merging with MCI

Qwest Communications has increased its offer to acquire MCI, hoping to derail last month's merger agreement reached between MCI and Qwest rival Verizon Communications.

Qwest is now offering to pay about $26 in cash and stock for each share of MCI, up from its previous offer of $24.60 per share, Qwest said in a regulatory filing Thursday.

MCI's board will review the new proposal and respond by the close of business on March 28, it said in a statement.

Verizon announced on Feb. 14 that it had hammered out an agreement to buy MCI in a deal valued at $6.7 billion. Soon after that deal was announced, Qwest said that it would revise its own previous offer. The deadline for doing so was the end of the day Thursday.

MCI has now received a revised offer from Qwest of $10.50 in cash and $15.50 in Qwest shares for each share of MCI, according to Thursday's filing.

The latest round of merger activity among telecommunications companies was triggered by the Jan. 31 announcement that SBC Communications plans to acquire AT&T Corp. in a deal worth $16 billion. That deal would create the largest carrier in the U.S.