The number three U.S. wireless carrier, Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S), has now struck a definitive agreement with Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR) to acquire the 48.3% of Clearwire that it does not already own for $2.97 a share, or $2.2 billion in cash. The deal includes the assumption of Clearwire debt and lease obligations of $5.5 billion and values the struggling Clearwire at approximately $10 billion.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said:
Today’s transaction marks yet another significant step in Sprint’s improved competitive position and ability to offer customers better products, more choices and better services. Sprint is uniquely positioned to maximize the value of Clearwire’s spectrum and efficiently deploy it to increase Sprint’s network capacity. We believe this transaction, particularly when leveraged with our SoftBank relationship, is further validation of our strategy and allows Sprint to control its network destiny.
Japan’s Softbank is acquiring a 70% stake in Sprint, and it is that cash that is enabling Sprint’s offer for Clearwire. And $2.97 is the limit because that is all that Softbank reportedly will allow Sprint to pay, as we noted on Friday.
Clearwire shareholders are not going to be happy today, because there was every reason to believe that a bidding war for the company was about to start. Now it is just shareholder lawsuits.
Clearwire’s shares are down 9.2% in premarket trading this morning, at $3.06 in a 52-week range of $0.83 to $3.40, the intraday high on Friday.