Softbank's Plan B may just be half the story

Rob Powell/Telecom Ramblings
11 Jun 2013

This week could be yet another watershed moment in the ongoing M&A soap opera that is Softbank/Dish/Sprint/Clearwire.

And just to make things even more complicated, over the weekend the buzz was about Softbank’s Plan B should Sprint spurn their offer. Yep, they’re floating the possibility of a bid for T-Mobile USA.

Sprint’s shareholders vote this week on Softbank’s offer for a 70% stake, but if Dish makes its proposed-but-still-tentative higher offer official it could force a postponement.

That could in turn prompt a higher bid from Softbank, yet the T-Mobile signal is suggesting there may not be one forthcoming. Are they just trying to make Sprint shareholders jealous, or could Charlie Ergen actually win the day?

The difficulty with Softbank’s supposed Plan B is that T-Mobile simply doesn’t have the spectrum depth that a Sprint/Clearwire sweep would bring. But perhaps it’s only half of plan B. I suppose they could also compete for the LightSquared spectrum, but there’s another possibility.

What if Softbank drops its bid for Sprint, but turns around and outbids Dish’s current $4.40/share for Clearwire to pair its spectrum with T-Mobile USA? That would turn much the current situation on its head. Dish would be the one asking Sprint to finalize its deal with Clearwire with Softbank as the outsider supported by the likes of Crest Financial against a lower offer.

And it would probably be a cheaper US entry for Softbank that way too, while Dish might wind up feeling like the proverbial dog that actually catches the car and wonders what to do next. Makes my head spin just thinking about it.

This article was authored by Rob Powell and was originally posted on

Rob Powell is founder & editor of Telecom Ramblings, which was set up in 2008. The website is dedicated to discussing trends and developments in the telecom industry.

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