Sprint-Clearwire: DISH Tries to Pull the Rug Out

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DISH Network Corp. has made an offer to buy Clearwire, in a deal that could pull the rug out from under Sprint Nextel Corp.

In December, Sprint agreed to buy the remaining half of Clearwire that it doesn’t already own, for $2.2 billion, or approximately $2.97 per share. There had been talk of DISH and Sprint teaming separately on a wireless deal, but now it appears DISH may be ready to cut Sprint out as a middle man.

To that end, DISH says it would pay $3.30 per share for Clearwire’s common stock. Clearwire said late Tuesday the amount of money involved means its board must engage in discussions and negotiations with DISH, but noted that nothing has yet changed when it comes to the pending Sprint transaction.

Tuesday’s offer from DISH is only preliminary and faces a number of uncertainties and conditions that may not be allowed under Clearwire’s legal and contractual obligations. Among other things, DISH wants to buy Clearwire’s spectrum that covers 11.4 billion MHZ-POPs, as well as wireless services. DISH even said it would provide capital to finance a Clearwire network expansion.

Clearwire said it told Sprint about DISH’s offer; Sprint’s response, according to Clearwire, was that Clearwire is hampered by certain legalities and contracts, and that DISH’s offer was inferior. Nonetheless, Clearwire said it is working with its lawyers and financial advisers to evaluate the DISH proposal.

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