Friday, December 14, 2012

Sprint Seeks to Buy Rest of Clearwire for About $2.1 Billion

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) proposed to acquire shares in wireless partner Clearwire Corp. it doesn’t already own in a deal that the third-largest U.S. carrier says would cost about $2.1 billion.

Sprint, which owns more than 50 percent of Clearwire, is seeking to acquire shares at $2.90 each, or 5.5 percent more than the stock’s closing price in New York yesterday, according to a regulatory filing today. Sprint proposed to provide interim financing of as much as $800 million.

Sprint is getting an influx of cash from Japan’s Softbank Corp. (9984), which agreed to buy 70 percent of Sprint for about $20 billion. Sprint agreed to buy Eagle River Holdings LLC’s 4.5 percent stake in Clearwire in October for $2.97 a share.

Clearwire shares jumped 2.6 percent to $2.75 yesterday in New York. The stock is up 42 percent this year.

Sprint originally formed the Clearwire joint venture in 2008, relying on $3.2 billion in investments from Google Inc. (GOOG), Intel Corp., and cable companies such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. The idea was to build a national wireless network that could compete with Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (T)

Clearwire never lived up to those ambitions, and the project has yet to break even. Along the way, partners such as Google and Time Warner Cable have sold their stakes for a fraction of their original value.