Dish bests Sprint's offer to acquire Clearwire


Dish Network's bid to steal Clearwire out from under Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) could signal the satellite TV provider's interest in partnering with the terrestrial broadband wireless provider.

Dish has offered to pay $3.30 per share to acquire Clearwire, more than the $2.97 per share Sprint has offered. Dish also offered to buy spectrum from Clearwire for $2.2 billion.

In addition, Clearwire would provide the "construction, operation, maintenance, and management of a wireless network" covering spectrum owned by Dish, Clearwire said in a release.

The attractiveness of the struggling mobile broadband provider is curious, since it has a huge $4.2 billion debt and has been financially struggling for a number of years. Perhaps its attractiveness stems from its extensive WiMAX network and spectrum holdings in the United States market.

Dish recently received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to use its satellite spectrum for terrestrial mobile broadband services. The agency is requiring the satellite provider to provide mobile broadband to at least 40 percent of its coverage area within four years and to meet build-out requirements, according to the FCC order.

Some analysts believe that Dish might be trying to force Sprint to partner with it on mobile broadband by holding Clearwire hostage, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The melodrama began months ago when Japan's Softbank offered to acquire 70 percent of Sprint, reportedly in an effort to gain access to Clearwire's WiMAX network and spectrum. Softbank operates a WiMAX network in Japan.

Following the Softbank offer, Sprint, which is a majority owner of Clearwire, began buying up Clearwire's shares, culminating in an offer last month to acquire the remaining shares of Clearwire for $2.97 per share, or $2.2 billion. However, at least one shareholder, Crest Financial, was not thrilled with the offer and sued to block Sprint's acquisition of Clearwire.

Then along came Dish and threw the whole thing into disarray. What is clear is that the satellite TV firm wants to get into terrestrial mobile broadband services, one way or the other.

For more:
- see Clearwire's release
- check out the FCC order
- read the WSJ report

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Clearwire shares soar 80 percent on Softbank-Sprint news