Rumor #10,928: Sprint to Buy Clearwire

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Yet another rumor is making the rounds today that Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) is in active negotiations to acquire the 49% of Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR). Citing “people close to the situation,” CNBC.com claims the two companies could announce a deal by the end of December.

Let’s review. Clearwire’s shares soared 75% in mid-October when Softbank made its $20.1 billion offer for Sprint. A couple of days after the offer was announce, Sprint acquired another 34 million shares of Clearwire, enough to give Sprint and eventually Softbank control of the wireless carrier. Clearwire shares jumped another 25%, to a 52-week high near $3.00 a share.

Since then Clearwire shares have fallen to a low below $2.00 a share before coming back to near the 52-week high. Clearwire’s value to Sprint lies in its wireless spectrum holdings in the U.S. For Softbank, Clearwire’s WiMax technology is the same as the technology Softbank is using to build a wireless network in Japan.

But with control of Clearwire already established, why bother to buy the nearly 500 million shares that Sprint doesn’t already own? At $3 a share that’s another $1.5 billion, and Clearwire’s shareholders are sure to want some premium. Would you make that deal?

Clearwire’s shares are up 14% at $2.73 in a 52-week range of $0.83 to $2.96. The shares reached a high of $2.76 earlier today.

Paul Ausick

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