Chorus of Clearwire investors against Sprint bid growing louder

Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:18pm EST
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By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors holding 29 percent of the outstanding minority shares of Clearwire Corp CLWR.O are unhappy with Sprint's $2.2 billion bid for the wireless service provider and are pushing for a higher offer.

Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service provider, announced on December 17 an agreement to acquire the outstanding shares of Clearwire it doesn't already own for $2.97 per share. While Sprint holds a more than 50 percent stake in Clearwire, the deal requires approval from holders of just over 50 percent of Clearwire's minority shares.

Securing that approval is looking increasingly tenuous, however.

Investors collectively owning almost 211 million shares of Clearwire - roughly 29 percent of its minority shares - told Reuters they do not think Sprint's bid is high enough and that they would not be happy casting their votes for the deal.

Crest Financial, which owns about 8 percent of Clearwire's minority shares, immediately sued to block the deal, for example. Crest's argument, echoed by other investors, is that Clearwire is worth a lot more than $2.97 per share as it has valuable wireless spectrum that would be crucial for Sprint.

While the 29 percent alone would not be enough to vote down the deal, its underscores the growing disenchantment Clearwire's minority shareholders have with Sprint's offer. Reuters was not able to reach all Clearwire shareholders.

For the deal to go through, Sprint needs approval from investors holding more than 362 million shares out of the roughly 725.89 million total minority shares outstanding. Share figures are based on the latest publicly available information.

Sprint said in December that it had support from three strategic investors - Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O: Quote), Intel Corp (INTC.O: Quote), and Bright House Networks LLC - who collectively own about 125.4 million Clearwire shares.   Continued...

People walk past a Sprint store in New York December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly