SoftBank CEO Says T-Mobile Deal Is Plan B If He Loses Sprint

SoftBank Corp. (9984) Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son, seeking to expand into the U.S. wireless market, said he sees T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) as a “Plan B” acquisition target if he fails to purchase Sprint Nextel Corp. (S)

“I plan to go with Plan A if possible,” Son told a Bloomberg reporter in Tokyo today, referring to the company’s October agreement to buy Sprint. SoftBank increased its bid for Sprint to $21.6 billion this week, aiming to ward off a counteroffer from Dish Network Corp. (DISH) Son said he doesn’t have any concern about SoftBank’s ability to finance the deal.

Son is counting on Sprint, the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, to jump-start his international expansion. To do that, he’ll have to get past fellow billionaire Charlie Ergen, the chairman and co-founder of Dish. Ergen wants to use Sprint to vault his satellite-TV company into mobile-phone services.

“I am determined to be No. 1 in the world very soon in my industry,” Son said in a speech today. “You are lucky not to be my competitor.”

The power struggle between the two billionaires extends to a bidding war for Clearwire (CLWR) Corp., the money-losing high-speed wireless network jointly owned by Sprint. Dish has offered $4.40 a share for Clearwire, topping a Sprint bid of $3.40. Clearwire endorsed Dish’s deal this week, dealing a blow to SoftBank, which sees a unified Sprint and Clearwire as part of its U.S. expansion plan.

Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

SoftBank Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son is counting on Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, to jump-start his international expansion. Close

SoftBank Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son is counting on Sprint Nextel... Read More

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Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

SoftBank Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son is counting on Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, to jump-start his international expansion.

Clearwire Airwaves

While Sprint owns just over 50 percent of Clearwire, it needs full ownership to take control of the business’ valuable spectrum -- airwaves that could be used to bolster Sprint’s network.

If it pursued T-Mobile, which is majority-owned by Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE), SoftBank would be getting a smaller carrier. It ranks fourth in the U.S. market, behind Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. (T) and Sprint. T-Mobile has a market value of $16.6 billion, compared with more than $22 billion for Sprint.

Sprint shares fell 1.4 percent on June 7 after Reuters reported that SoftBank was discussing an alternate deal with T-Mobile.

Ergen also has expressed interest in T-Mobile, people close to the situation said earlier this year. He informally approached Deutsche Telekom about a possible deal with the carrier sometime before April 10, before T-Mobile merged with MetroPCS Communications Inc. Andreas Leigers, a Deutsche Telekom spokesman, didn’t have an immediate comment on Son’s remarks.

When Deutsche Telekom agreed to combine T-Mobile with MetroPCS, the German company pledged not to sell shares of T-Mobile on the stock market for 18 months. Still, it’s allowed to sell its 74 percent stake all at once to a third party, Deutsche Telekom Chief Financial Officer Timotheus Hoettges told investors in May.

“We are in a position to sell all shares in one go,” Hoettges said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Yuki Yamaguchi in Tokyo at yyamaguchi10@bloomberg.net; Scott Moritz in New York at smoritz6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Panckhurst at ppanckhurst@bloomberg.net; Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net; Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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