Dish Network Asks FCC to Pause Sprint-Softbank Review

Dish Network Corp. asked U.S. regulators to pause their consideration of Softbank Corp.’s proposed $20 billion purchase of Sprint Nextel Corp. as the satellite-television provider pursues Sprint partner Clearwire Corp.

Tokyo-based Softbank’s bid for Sprint is “unripe for consideration” because maneuvering continues surrounding Dish’s counteroffer for Clearwire, Dish said in a filing at the Federal Communications Commission that was posted on the agency’s website today. Dish offered $3.30 a share for wireless operator Clearwire, which agreed to be bought out by Sprint for $2.97 a share.

While it has made no decision to reconsider Sprint’s offer, Clearwire said it plans to talk to Dish, which is led by Chairman Charlie Ergen, and will keep its options open by not drawing on financing offered by Sprint. Third-largest U.S. wireless carrier Sprint owns slightly more than half of Clearwire and has said it won’t let Ergen’s bid succeed.

The FCC has asked for comments on Softbank’s bid for Sprint by Jan. 28. Consideration should be stopped until “the resolution of significant unresolved contingencies” in Sprint’s offer to acquire all of Clearwire, Englewood, Colorado-based Dish said in its filing.

‘Negotiation Tactic’

“This is a negotiating tactic for Ergen,” Amy Yong, an analyst at Macquarie Securities in New York, said in an interview. Ergen wants to force Sprint into talks on sharing airwaves, Yong said.

Ergen has said he wants to add spectrum -- the airwaves that let mobile devices operate -- to compete with AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless in the mobile-phone business. Last month, the FCC approved Dish’s plan to operate wireless devices on airwaves formerly devoted mainly to satellite services.

Clearwire, based in Bellevue, Washington, was unchanged at $3.14 at the close of trading in New York on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Dish gained 40 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $37.75, and Sprint climbed 10 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $5.63.

John Taylor, a spokesman for Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint, declined to comment, as did Justin Cole, a spokesman for the FCC.

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