Sprint, SoftBank agree to U.S. national security deal

Wed May 29, 2013 6:27pm EDT
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By Alina Selyukh

(Reuters) - Sprint Nextel Corp and Japan's SoftBank Corp said on Wednesday they had reached a national security agreement with U.S. authorities, overcoming a major hurdle for the Japanese company's $20.1 billion bid to control the wireless carrier.

Even with that approval, there are still a number of regulatory, congressional and investor hurdles facing SoftBank before it can close on its plan to break into the U.S. market. One influential U.S. senator said on Wednesday he was "carefully examining" the approval to see if it eased his security concerns.

The companies said they had received notice from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that it had completed its national security review of the proposed deal and there were no unresolved issues.

The approval was a blow to Dish Network, which launched an unsolicited $25 billion offer for Sprint in April.

Dish has mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign, trying to convince Washington decision-makers that foreign ownership of Sprint posed threats to U.S. national security.

In a statement late on Wednesday, Dish said the CFIUS agreement failed to address the relevant national security concerns, and the company called on Congress to conduct a review of the whole process.

On paper, all that stands in SoftBank's way now is approval from the government's "Team Telecom" security panel, the Federal Communications Commission and Sprint shareholders.

Dish, however, has been drumming up worries about the deal among lawmakers, regulators and investors, and now hopes those concerns could delay the FCC vote long enough for the shareholders to vote on June 12 on SoftBank's bid.   Continued...

A clerk works in front of a SoftBank Corp branch in Tokyo May 29, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai