Sprint Nextel has made a USD2.1 billion offer to buy the 49% of WiMAX-turned-Long Term Evolution (LTE) provider Clearwire that it does not already own, Fierce Wireless reports, citing a regulatory filing. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Sprint is offering USD2.90 per share – equivalent to a 5.5% premium to yesterday’s closing price of Clearwire’s shares. Sprint’s board approved the deal yesterday and a special committee representing Clearwire’s board is now in the process of reviewing the proposed transaction. The deal is the first significant step that Sprint has taken to strengthen its position in the US market since Japan’s Softbank Corp announced in October its intention to buy 70% of the carrier for USD20.1 billion.
In October this year Sprint Nextel increased its ownership in Clearwire from 48.0% to 50.8% via the purchase of around USD100 million worth of stock from Eagle River Holdings, the investment firm owned by wireless industry pioneer Craig McCaw. Clearwire’s other shareholders include equipment manufacturer Intel (7.3%), cable operators Comcast (6%), Time Warner Cable (TWC, 7.8%) and Bright House Networks (unknown).
The deal, if approved, would put an end to the often complicated relationship between the two companies, and give Sprint vastly larger spectrum resources in the process. Sprint is currently Clearwire’s largest shareholder and also accounts for ‘substantially all’ of the wireless broadband specialist’s existing wholesale customer base. However, it does not control Clearwire’s board or strategic direction, leading to several well-publicised conflicts of interest over the years.