The bid from Dish was an unexpected move, as it eclipses a previous deal that had been in the works between Sprint and the Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Corp. (SFTBY).
Late last year, Sprint and SoftBank had agreed to a $20.1 billion deal that would have given 70 percent of the nation’s third largest mobile network to the Japanese company. The deal is still being reviewed by regulators.
For Dish, the move comes in the context of Chairman Charlie Ergen’s efforts to control a larger portion of the wireless spectrum.
Sprint and Dish are currently competing to purchase smaller wireless company Cleawire (CLWR), for which Dish is, for the time being, holding to its $3.30 per share bid (itself a counter-offer to Sprint’s $2.97 per share bid).
Dish is offering to pay $7 per share for Sprint; $4.76 per share in cash and the rest in stock, and says that this eclipses SoftBank’s current bid by 13 percent.
Sprint did not offer any comments beyond saying it would consider the offer. In a regulatory filing, Dish claimed that the end result would represent a combined total of 63.1 million subscribers and $50 billion in annual revenue. It would also represent yet another potentially serious challenge to the relative dominance of Verizon Communications (VZ) and AT&T (T) over the wireless market than has been seen in some time.
Last week, Google (GOOG) announced plans to hook business and residents in the Texas capital Austin to cheap and easily accessible broadband service, prompting a terse counter-offer from AT&T.
The news sent Sprint Nextel’s shares up 12.42 percent to $6.99, after an early-day high of $7.33. Shares for Dish, meanwhile, were down 6.03 percent to $35.36. Shares for Clearwire were down 2.76 percent to $3.17.
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