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MCI WorldCom To Buy SkyTel Communications

MCI WorldCom Inc. is buying SkyTel Communications Inc., a pager company, for nearly $1.3 billion in stock. This deal comes only days after the two companies denied rumors they were discussing a merger deal.

MCI WorldCom said Friday it would pay stock worth $21.24 for each share of SkyTel. MCI WorldCom, the nation’s No. 2 long-distance phone company, will also absorb about $525 million in debt from SkyTel, one of the few profitable companies in the paging industry.

The deal comes amid a frenzy of deal making that is reshaping the communications industry, with phone companies like Bell Atlantic and GTE merging and AT&T spending about $100 billion on cable TV properties it plans to use for phone calls and Internet access.

MCI WorldCom president and CEO Bernie Ebbers said the acquisition is an important building block in the company’s overall wireless strategy. “SkyTel is the industry leader in wireless messaging, and is ahead of the curve in developing and implementing wireless data applications,” Ebbers said.