Softbank closer to acquiring Sprint after Dish abandons bid for now

Wed Jun 19, 2013 1:59pm EDT
 
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By Sophie Knight and Sinead Carew

TOKYO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Japan's SoftBank Corp cleared a major hurdle in its attempt to buy U.S. wireless provider Sprint Nextel Corp, as rival bidder Dish Network Corp declined to make a new offer after SoftBank sweetened its own bid last week.

SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son is now a step closer to sealing the largest overseas acquisition by a Japanese company in history, after winning support from a key shareholder by raising SoftBank's offer to $21.6 billion from $20.1 billion last week.

Son, a rare risk-taker in a cautious Japanese corporate environment, has been determined to thwart a rival bid from Dish - led by Chairman Charlie Ergen, known for aggressive takeover attempts - in an effort to break into the U.S. market.

"We look forward to receiving the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and shareholder approvals which will allow us to close in early July and begin the hard work of building the new Sprint into a meaningful 3rd competitor in the US market," Softbank said in a statement.

SoftBank, one of Japan's top mobile operators, has promised that Sprint would be able to save money on equipment such as smartphones by getting bulk-buy discounts from vendors. It can also lend its expertise in wireless technology, an area in which Son has said Dish's Ergen has no experience.

"The advantage of SoftBank is really about the synergy between the two firms ... in terms of distribution, branding and retailing," said Hiroshi Yamashina, a senior telecommunications analyst at BNP Paribas in Tokyo.

Dish's promise was additional wireless spectrum that it has bought in recent years as well as the opportunity to expand its video services to cellphone users.

Shares of SoftBank rose 4.2 percent in Tokyo, outpacing a 1.8 percent rise in the benchmark Nikkei average.   Continued...

 
Workers build a booth for Dish, a satellite TV provider, as they prepare for the International CES show at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Steve Marcus