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Why Straight Path Communications Inc. Stock Plunged 20% Today

What happened

Shares of Straight Path Communications Inc. (NYSEMKT: STRP) were down 20.4% as of 1:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday as the one-sided bidding war for the wireless spectrum company finally came to an end.

So what

More specifically, today Straight Path announced it will sign a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) for $184 per share, representing an enterprise value of roughly $3.1 billion. For perspective, Straight Path stock closed yesterday at just under $224 per share.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

But this shouldn't be entirely surprising. Recall that Straight Path's meteoric rise began in January, when the company reached a favorable settlement with the Federal Communications Commission amid allegations that it obtained certain spectrum licenses from the FCC under fraudulent circumstances. In addition to paying a $15 million civil penalty to the FCC, Straight Path agreed to pursue strategic alternatives to sell its remaining licenses, or be forced to pay an additional penalty and surrender them to the FCC.

Thankfully for Straight Path shareholders, the stock skyrocketed 150% in a single day last month after it agreed to be acquired by AT&T (NYSE: T) for $95.63 per share, or an enterprise value of $1.6 billion. Then shares continued to climb in the subsequent weeks after the company fielded successively higher offers from an unnamed "multi-national telecommunications company" -- widely presumed to be Verizon -- with Straight Path giving AT&T several days after each offer to respond with its own superior proposal. Most recently, Straight Path shares popped another 33% on Monday, to around $212 per share, as investors hoped the bidding would climb even higher than what turned out to be Verizon's winning $184-per-share bid.

Now what

That's not to say AT&T came out empty-handed; Verizon has agreed to pay its largest competitor the required $38 million termination fee on behalf of Straight Path. But considering Straight Path's wireless spectrum assets are expected to play a key part in the impending rollouts of 5G networks, it seems safe to say that Verizon was more than happy to foot that bill. 

As it stands, the final deal has been approved by the boards of directors of both Verizon and Straight Path, is expected to close within nine months (subject to FCC review), and will be completed as an all-stock transaction intended to qualify as a tax-free reorganization. So with Straight Path shares now trading within 3% of the agreed acquisition price, shareholders can either wait for the transaction to close and receive Verizon shares in return or -- keeping in mind any sales between now and then will be subject to capital gains (or loss) tax treatment -- take their money off the table and put it to work elsewhere.

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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.