Clearwire Spoke to AT&T, China Mobile About Deals
Clearwire Corp. (CLWR), the wireless carrier that received takeover proposals from Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) and Dish Network Corp. (DISH), said it also had talks with eight other companies over the past two years about various deals.
Clearwire, in a proxy filing today, didn’t identify the parties that it had discussions with over a period starting in fall 2010. Deutsche Telecom AG’s T-Mobile USA, AT&T Inc. (T), MetroPCS Communications Inc. (PCS) and China Mobile Ltd. (941) were among the companies, according to Spencer Kurn, an analyst with New Street Research LLC, and Tim Farrar of TMF Associates Inc.
Clearwire said it hasn’t made any determination to change its recommendation of a deal with Sprint. Sprint, which already owns just over 50 percent of Bellevue, Washington-based Clearwire, has agreed to buy the rest of the shares for $2.97 apiece. Dish has made a counteroffer of $3.30 a share.
Mike DiGioia, a spokesman for Clearwire, declined to comment beyond the filing. Representatives from MetroPCS and T- Mobile declined to comment. AT&T and China Mobile didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.
Throughout the summer of 2011, Clearwire discussed the sale of its airwaves to “a U.S.-based provider of Internet-based products and services,” according to the filing. Those discussions ended without an offer from the Internet service company, which Kurn, and Chris King, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus, say could be Google Inc. or Amazon.com Inc.
Both Sprint and Dish are vying for Clearwire’s spectrum -- the airwaves that are used to transmit voice and data for mobile phones and tablets. While Sprint has said that its bid is superior because it’s simpler and carries fewer conditions, some Clearwire shareholders, including Crest Financial Ltd. and Mount Kellett Capital Management LP, have lobbied for a better offer.
Clearwire rose 0.3 percent to $3.19 at the close in New York, signaling that investors expect a bid to go higher than Sprint’s $2.97 price. Sprint advanced 1.1 percent to $5.69.
Clearwire said today it hasn’t drawn on financing offered by Sprint, keeping its options open. The two companies haven’t reached an agreement on an accelerated network construction plan and extended the deadline by one month to Feb. 28.
Dish, which ranks second to DirecTV (DTV) in the satellite-TV market, is making its bid as part of an expansion into mobile- phone service. The proposal would require Clearwire shareholders to sell at least 25 percent of the stock and wouldn’t be dependent on Sprint’s participation, though it’s subject to conditions that may require Sprint’s approval.
Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kansas, agreed to acquire 100 percent of Clearwire in December, two months after a separate deal with Tokyo-based Softbank Corp. (9984) promised to provide a cash infusion. Softbank is buying a $20 billion stake in Sprint to help the Japanese company expand into the U.S.
Before the takeover offer, Sprint and Clearwire had run a joint venture with the goal of building a nationwide wireless network. The effort struggled to gain traction over the past four years, leading to billions of dollars in losses for Clearwire.
Sprint plans to take over Clearwire’s spectrum and use it to enhance its own network. Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse said in December that the deal was “critical” to turnaround efforts at the carrier.
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