RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — SpectraSite, a provider of wireless tower services across the United States, is being acquired by rival American Tower in a $3 billion deal, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The deal is all stock, the newspaper said.

Later Wednesday morning, the companies issued a joint statement confirming the deal.

Both company boards of directors have approved the deal, which values SpectraSite stock at more than $61 a share.

The announcement triggered a surge in SpectraSite’s stock price (NYSE: SII). Shares closed at $61.20, up from $56.20.

As part of the transaction, SpectraSite CEO Steve Clark will become a member of the board of directors of American Tower. American Tower executives will run the firm.

“The combination of SpectraSite and American Tower will ensure our ability to compete successfully in serving the needs of our customers,” Clark said in a statement. “We will have more towers in the best markets. Together, we will be the premier tower company in North America.”

The combined company will operate more than 22,600 towers.

SpectraSite, which employed 455 people as of Dec. 31, 2004, had a market cap of $2.61 billion before the deal was announced.

American Tower has a $3.97 billion market cap.

SpectraSite operates 7,821 towers and has a presence in all 100 major U.S. markets. The company also offers wireless networks in 50 shopping malls.

The company reported $355 million in revenues and a $23.9 million profit in 2004.

Clark, the company’s founder and chief executive officer, led SpectraSite through reorganization and bankruptcy. He earned $809,000 in compensation and redeemed $17.32 million in stock options in 2004, according to Reuters.

SpectraSite declared bankruptcy in November of 2002.

“This combination is a defining event in the tower industry, creating the clear industry leader,” said Jim Taiclet, American Tower’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. “We believe there is a compelling alignment between the strategies of American Tower and SpectraSite. First, we are both fully focused on the tower leasing business. Second, we are both committed to operational excellence, investing continually in our people, processes and systems. And third, we are both committed to delivering superior returns to shareholders as we generate increasing free cash flow over time. Combining with SpectraSite creates an even stronger company, with expanded revenue, decreased leverage for American Tower, a broader customer base and a more numerous and diverse tower portfolio.”