DISH Drops Sprint Bid, Turns to Clearwire

Dish Network Corp. (NASDAQ: DISH) dropped its bid for Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S), which means it is probable that Japan’s Softbank will get a 78% controlling interest in the number three U.S. wireless carrier. Softbank can regret its decision to raise its bid for Sprint, which has turned out to be a futile gesture. It probably could have won its battle for Sprint without the extra effort.

But M&A face offs sometimes go that way. Dish, if anything, made Softbank suffer as the two companies fought over Sprint, given the losing battle it has put up against Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). Sprint may never gain on its two larger rivals, even with a multibillion investment from Softbank. The wireless market in the Unites States is saturated. There are more cellphones in circulation than there are people.

In the meantime, Dish has a better chance of buying Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR), the board of which favors its offer. Dish needs Clearwire’s 4G network to offer wireless broadband, in the hope it can bundle the wireless service with its satellite TV.

The announcement:

While DISH continues to see strategic value in a merger with Sprint, the decisions made by Sprint to prematurely terminate our due diligence process and accept extreme deal protections in its revised agreement with SoftBank, among other things, have made it impracticable for DISH to submit a revised offer by the June 18th deadline imposed by Sprint. We will consider our options with respect to Sprint, and focus our efforts and resources on completing the Clearwire tender offer.

It is hard to say who the winner is and who is the loser, given the improbability of a Sprint turnaround.