Sprint raises Clearwire bid, wins key investor support

Thu Jun 20, 2013 6:28pm EDT
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By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel Corp raised its buyout offer for Clearwire Corp to $5 per share on Thursday and announced support from a key group of dissident shareholders, likely ending a bitter battle with rival suitor Dish Network Corp.

Sprint, currently Clearwire's majority shareholder, has been fighting publicly with Dish over Clearwire since January as both companies want Clearwire's vast trove of valuable wireless airwaves to help them compete in wireless services.

Clearwire put its support behind the latest offer, representing the second major blow in a matter of days against Dish Chairman and founder Charlie Ergen, who wants to expand his satellite TV company into the wireless market.

Earlier this week Ergen had to back out, at least for now, from a battle with Japan's SoftBank Corp to buy Sprint itself.

Dish declined comment on the new Clearwire offer.

Several analysts said they now expect Sprint to prevail.

"We believe Clearwire shareholders will approve the $5 offer from Sprint regardless of any new overtures from Dish," said BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk.

On top of the higher price, which gives Clearwire an enterprise value of more than $14 billion - or a roughly 14 percent premium over Dish's bid, Sprint also had Clearwire change its governance rules making it harder for a rival bidder.   Continued...

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