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Softbank Caps Sprint's Bid for Clearwire; Investors Ask for More

Fri, 12/14/2012 - 10:41am
Ben Munson

Sprint’s bid to buy the remaining portion of Clearwire is proving more complicated than originally thought, as Softbank, which plans to acquire a 70-percent stake in Sprint next year, draws a cap on Sprint’s bid for Clearwire, and investors say they want a lot more per share than that bid will allow. 

Sprint’s bid for Clearwire appears to make sense, as it would boost Sprint's spectrum holdings in major U.S. markets and serve to level the playing field with Verizon and AT&T a bit, two aspects that would sweeten the pot for Japan's Softbank.

A new report from Reuters however suggests pressure from Clearwire is threatening the deal. Sprint's $2.1 billion offer to buy out Clearwire works out to about $2.90 per share, but it appears some shareholders are looking for more money, saying $5 per share is more like it. But Softbank has set a bidding cap of $2.97, which the report cites as the same price Sprint paid earlier this year to acquire a controlling stake in Clearwire.

In Mount Kellett's second letter to the Board of Clearwire, the capital management company said it was "gravely concerned by Sprint's highly coercive proposal to acquire all of the Shares not owned by it for $2.90 per Share." The letter goes on to show the math Mount Kellett used to estimate the share value at $6.30 and note that selling the stock at $2.90 would be an "absolute outrage."

Sprint has also offered 800 million in interim financing for Clearwire, which is a significant chunk of capital that the hurting company could definitely use. But before that cash can flow, the deal needs to get done and it looks like one of the parties involved will have to bend in order for that to happen.

So, just when a happy ending seemed in sight, there's trouble in the water again. Analyst Jeff Kagan spoke about Sprint and Clearwire's on-again, off-again relationship like they were a volatile couple that were destined for each other.

"I think this was always something everybody expected. Nobody really understood why they separated. It made more sense for them to be together," he said.

Although a deal seems to be in the best interest for both companies, fate, in the form of investors, may once again stop them from finally working it out.

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