Sprint Moves Closer to Finalizing SoftBank Deal, Likely to Lose Clearwire to Dish

Michael Teague  |

Less than two days after Japanese telecom services company SoftBank and the U.S.’s third-largest wireless service provider Sprint Nextel (S) moved closer to finalizing a deal that put an end to the ugly bidding war between Dish Network (DISH) and the Japanese tech firm, it seems as though Sprint may now be about to pay some sort of price.

Monday evening, Sprint’s board of directors recommended that the company take SoftBank’s recently revised offer and discontinue talks with Dish Network. The recommendation came on the same day as SoftBank upped its offer for the company by 7.5 percent, from the previous $20.1 billion to $21.6 billion. A month ago, Dish itself significantly upped its offer for Sprint to $25.5 billion.

While Dish’s offer is almost $4 billion greater than SoftBank’s, the U.S.’s second-largest satellite cable provider is seeking to own all of Sprint’s shares. SoftBank, for its part, is seeking a 78 percent stake in the new entity that will be created out of the merger, and thus its offer represents a higher per-share price for investors.

Furthermore, at this point Sprint’s termination fee for backing out of the SoftBank deal has quadrupled to $800 million.

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Sprint shareholders have postponed a vote on the SoftBank deal to June 25th, and have also given Dish what appears to be one last chance to come up with a “best and final” offer by June 18th, which may not even be possible however because on Monday the Japanese company filed with the SEC in order to revoke the waiver it had previously signed allowing Sprint and Dish to talk about a competing deal in the first place.

While there was always a sense that Sprint shareholders had been in favor of a deal with SoftBank over one with Dish, the bidding was contentious, with the cable TV provider engaging in a nasty campaign to cast aspersions about the true intentions of the Japanese telecom.

Meanwhile, Sprint was engaged in its own heavily contested bidding war with none other than Dish Network over the smaller telecom firm Clearwire Corp. (CLWR).

Clearwire’s board recommended late on Wednesday that the company’s shareholders accept Dish Network’s offer of $4.40 per share. The company’s shareholders have been given a July 2nd deadline to vote on the deal.

Sprint’s offer goes up for a vote on June 24th, but the $3.40 per share offer to buy the 49 percent of the company that it does not already own had already been somewhat unpopular with Clearwire’s shareholders.

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