DISH offers to buy Clearwire for $3.30 per share

Wed Jan 9, 2013 5:28am IST

The sign in the lobby of the corporate headquarters of Dish Network is seen in the Denver suburb of Englewood, Colorado April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The sign in the lobby of the corporate headquarters of Dish Network is seen in the Denver suburb of Englewood, Colorado April 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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(Reuters) - Dish Network Corp has made an unsolicited offer to buy Clearwire Corp for about $2.28 billion, trumping an offer by Clearwire shareholder Sprint Nextel Corp and potentially interfering with Softbank Corp's plan to take a majority stake in Sprint.

Satellite television provider Dish has been working on plans to enter the wireless industry for some time and has amassed billions of dollars worth of spectrum over the past few years.

The move to bid for Clearwire is not a total surprise as Dish had asked the U.S. telecom regulator last month for more time to file an objection to wireless service provider Sprint's proposed sale of a controlling stake to Japan's Softbank due to Sprint's announcement last month of a plan to buy out Clearwire.

At the time the request was seen as an indication that Dish, controlled by billionaire founder Charlie Ergen, was gearing up for a fight with Sprint over its plan to sell a 70 percent stake to Softbank for $20 billion.

Clearwire said the proposal of $3.30 per share was only a preliminary indication of interest and subject to a number of uncertainties and conditions. Based on Clearwire's outstanding class A shares the offer would amount to $2.28 billion.

Clearwire's shares closed at $2.90 on Monday.

One condition would be approval by Sprint. The wireless carrier owns around 50 percent of Clearwire and has made a bid to buy the stake it does not currently own for $2.97 a share or $2.2 billion.

Clearwire's special committee of the board of directors has not made any change to its recommendation of the current Sprint transaction, Clearwire said.

Dish's head of corporate development Tom Cullen said the company was looking forward to working with Clearwire's special committee.

In a response to the Dish proposal, Clearwire said it received a letter from Sprint stating it had reviewed Dish's offer and "believes that it is illusory, inferior to the Sprint transaction and not viable..."

Dish shares dropped 1.3 percent to $35.50 in after-hours trade. Trading in Clearwire shares was halted.

(Reporting by Nicola Leske; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Phil Berlowitz)

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