Clearwire, shareholders brace for fight over Sprint bid

Wed May 22, 2013 6:50pm EDT
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By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Clearwire Corp CLWR.O appeared to be on the brink of another fight with its shareholders on Wednesday as the wireless service provider approved Sprint Nextel Corp's (S.N: Quote) sweetened buyout offer while minority shareholders said the bid was too stingy.

Clearwire announced its decision to support majority shareholder Sprint a day after Sprint raised its offer for the almost 50 percent of the company it does not already own to $3.40 per share from $2.97 per share.

The wireless service provider, which Sprint wants to control because of its key spectrum holdings, said it has no better alternatives than the Sprint offer.

Clearwire shareholders with about 32 percent of Clearwire's public shares said they were disappointed with the latest offer from Sprint, which needs approval from more than 50 percent of Clearwire's minority investors in order to proceed.

A group of four shareholders, claiming ownership of 18.2 percent of Clearwire's common shares, said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday that Sprint's offer was too low. The filing came after shareholders with another roughly 14 percent of Clearwire's public shares said they were not happy with the Sprint offer.

The group of four - Mount Kellett Capital Management, Highside Capital Management, Glenview Capital Management and Chesapeake Partners Management - first agreed to negotiate with Sprint together to look for a sweetner of the $2.97 bid.

The group said on Wednesday that they had agreed to extend their partnership until June 3, a few days after shareholders are scheduled to vote on the latest offer.

Clearwire, which has announced support for the Sprint deal from 26 percent of the minority votes, declined to comment specifically on the shareholder backlash. But the company argued in an update of its proxy filing late on Wednesday that Sprint's offer was its best alternative as potential deals with Dish Network (DISH.O: Quote) and Verizon Communications (VZ.N: Quote) were not "actionable".   Continued...

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