Sprint Raises Clearwire Offer, Not Enough For Some

Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) raised its buyout offer for wireless service provider Clearwire Corp (CLWR.O) to $3.40 per share, but the new bid was not high enough to impress some investors.

Sprint Nextel

Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) raised its buyout offer for wireless service provider Clearwire Corp (CLWR.O) to $3.40 per share, but the new bid was not high enough to impress some investors.

Clearwire shares almost immediately traded around the new offer price, having consistently traded well above the old $2.97-per-share bid. Sprint announced the revised price just hours before Clearwire was due to hold a special meeting for shareholders to vote on the original offer.

Analysts and investors had said the original deal was unlikely to be approved unless Sprint raised its bid substantially. But the new bid generated a similar reaction, at least among some shareholders.

Taran Asset Management principal Chris Gleason said that he would not vote for a $3.40-per-share offer and was still hoping for a price range of $5 to $7 per share.

"We know the value is higher," said Gleason, whose firm holds more than 1 million Clearwire shares.

A portfolio manager at a top 20 shareholder was also unimpressed with the new price tag and said that keeping the shares as a minority holder would be a better option.

"It's not going to get my vote," said the person who asked not to be named due to a lack of authorization to speak to the media. "I guess Clearwire isn't as important to them as it is to me. We'll be fine being minority shareholder. They should have come with a real bid or not come at all."

Clearwire said it would review the revised proposal and postponed its shareholder meeting to May 30. The meeting had been planned for 10:30 a.m. PT (1730 GMT) on Tuesday.

Sprint, which is looking to gain control of Clearwire's wireless airwaves to help it compete better against larger rivals, said its revised bid values Clearwire at $10.7 billion.

Any Clearwire deal would be contingent on the closing of Sprint's proposed plan to sell 70 percent of Sprint to Japan's SoftBank Corp for $20.1 billion. Sprint, which received approval from SoftBank to raise its bid, is currently reviewing a $25.5 billion counter offer from Dish Network (DISH.O).

SoftBank declined to comment.

A source familiar with the situation said that move would not require an additional capital from SoftBank as Sprint will fund the price increase itself.

SoftBank would have been comfortable just owning a bigger majority stake in Clearwire but the source said that "Sprint made a strong case for completing the full transaction" and SoftBank wanted to be a good partner to Sprint.

Sprint said that Clearwire has received commitments from Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O), Intel Corp (INTC.O) and Bright House Networks, who own about 26 percent of Clearwire`s minority shares, to vote for the transaction.

Analyst opinion was mixed on whether Sprint would get enough support from the rest of the minority shareholders, even with the revised bid.

"It's a good first step but this sweetened offer I believe will be insufficient to secure a successful transaction," said Roe Equity Research analyst Kevin Roe.

But analyst Jennifer Fritzsche from Wells Fargo expects Sprint to gain support for the new offer.

"While there likely will be shareholders still objecting (those that believe Clearwire could be an ongoing entity), we believe this price is enough to get this deal approved," Fritzsche said in a research note.

Investors with roughly 31 percent of the public shares had said either in statements or in interviews with Reuters that they were unhappy with the original offer.

Shareholders against the original bid included Mount Kellett Capital Management LP, Highside Capital Management, Glenview Capital Management and Chesapeake Partners Management. These companies teamed up to negotiate together with Sprint and Clearwire.

The group had yet to issue a comment on the new offer by 11 AM Tuesday. Crest Financial, the biggest of the minority shareholders, had led a proxy fight urging shareholders to vote against a deal.

Crest, which had no immediate comment on Tuesday, had said on Monday that shareholders should not vote for a revised Sprint offer while Sprint's own future was still uncertain.

Sprint shares were up 7 cents or 1 percent at $7.36 in morning trade on New York Stock Exchange. Clearwire shares traded up 15 cents or almost 5 percent at $3.41 on Nasdaq.

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