Dish tops Sprint-Softbank's Clearwire bid

Dylan Bushell-Embling
30 May 2013
Daily News

The plot continues to thicken in the battle between Japan's Softbank and US satellite TV operator Dish Network for control of Sprint Nextel.

Days before the shareholder meeting to vote on Sprint's Softbank-backed takeover offer for wireless operator Clearwire, Dish has submitted a competing bid.

Sprint last week raised its offer for the shares in Clearwire it does not yet own from $2.97 per share to $3.40 per share in the face of opposition from some shareholders. But Dish has now topped this bid by 29% to $4.40.

This seems a curious move as Dish will be driving up its costs if it succeeds in its $25.5 billion takeover bid for Sprint. But circumstances suggest some potential motives.

Dish had been making a lot of noise about the national security implications of allowing a foreign company control of a major US wireless network, and Softbank's relationship with Huawei.

But Sprint and Softbank yesterday reached a deal with US foreign investment watchdog CIFUS on security issues, with the agency declaring there are no unresolved national security issues.

The agreement involves appointing a special security director to the sprint board. The applicant will need to be approved by the US government, be a US resident citizen, and hold security clearances.

Trying to snatch Clearwire away from Sprint could be another attempt to tip the scales in favor of its offer, as opposed to Softbank's original $20.1 billion bid for 70% of Sprint.

Alternatively, as Dish's takeover bid is thought to be mostly about spectrum, the company could be settling on acquiring Clearwire's spectrum by buying the company outright. This seems less likely, as it is highly doubtful that Sprint would be willing to sell its existing 50%+ stake.

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