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Dish Makes $5.15 Billion Offer for Clearwire

8 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Dish Network Jan. 8 made an unsolicited $5.15 billion bid for wireless network operator Clearwire, which is 50% owned by Sprint Nextel.

The satellite TV operator’s $3.30 per share offer is 11% higher than Sprint’s recent $2.97 per share ($2.2 billion) buyout offer to acquire the remaining 50% interest in Clearwire.

Dish’s offer is considered preliminary and subject to material uncertainties and conditions — notably approval by Sprint and related regulatory bodies. The offer revolves around acquiring spectrum covering approximately 11.4 billion MHz-pops and representing approximately 24% of Clearwire's total MHz-pops of spectrum.

Spectrum, which is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, is the lifeline for wireless networks upon which smartphones, tablet computers and related devices operate.

Sprint said in a statement that it has reviewed Dish’s proposal and believes it is “illusory, inferior” compared with its offer and “not viable” since it cannot be implemented due to current legal and contractual obligations. Sprint said its agreement with Clearwire prohibits the wireless network from entering into provisions outlined in Dish’s proposal.

Englewood, Colo.-based Dish has been quietly acquiring wireless spectrum throughout the years — a strategy observers believe portends a future rollout by Dish of a wireless network.

Indeed, Dish-owned Blockbuster LLC currently sells third-party smartphones and service contracts under the rental icon’s Blockbuster Mobile banner.

"We look forward to working with Clearwire's special committee as it evaluates our proposal," Tom Cullen, Dish’s EVP of corporate development, said in a statement.

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