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Clearwire Sets May 21 Date for Vote on Sprint’s Takeover Offer

Clearwire Corp., the money-losing wireless-service provider, scheduled a shareholder meeting next month to vote on Sprint Nextel Corp.’s $2.97-a-share takeover offer, a transaction it has urged investors to approve.

The meeting is set for May 21 at 10:30 a.m. in Bellevue, Washington, according to a regulatory filing yesterday. The deal has been endorsed by the board, and it’s in the best interest of shareholders, Clearwire said.

Sprint, which already owned just over half of Clearwire, agreed to buy the remainder in December -- two months after a separate deal with Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp. promised to provide a cash infusion. SoftBank is buying a $20 billion stake in Sprint to help the company expand into the U.S.

Clearwire also received a $3.30-a-share proposal in January from Dish Network Corp., though that offer is hampered by Sprint’s majority stake in the company.

Before the takeover bid, 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’s goal now is to use Clearwire’s wireless airwaves to bolster its own network.

The deal is opposed by Crest Financial, a Houston-based investment firm that has offered financing to Clearwire in an effort to get it to retain its independence. Crest has argued that the Clearwire spectrum is worth more than what Sprint is offering.

Dish’s Move

Further complicating matters, Dish made a bid this month for majority control of Sprint, offering $25.5 billion for 70 percent of the carrier. Dish wants to unify Sprint’s wireless network with its satellite-TV service, letting it compete with Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. SoftBank has argued that its bid has “superior short- and long-term benefits” compared with Dish’s “highly conditional preliminary proposal.”

Clearwire shares rose 0.9 percent to $3.29 yesterday in New York. The stock has climbed 14 percent this year, suggesting that at least some investors expect the company to accept a higher offer than Sprint’s $2.97 a share.

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