Sprint Raises Clearwire Offer

Wireless Giant Increases Bid to $3.40 Per Share

Sprint Nextel raised its offer for the 50% of Clearwire it doesn’t already own to $3.40 per share Tuesday, prompting the Wi-Max pioneer to postpone a scheduled shareholders meeting to review the new proposal.

The new Sprint price is 10 cents above a competing offer from Dish Network that was made in January.   Dish, which is also pursuing an acquisition of Sprint Nextel for $25.5 billion, has largely been thought to have abandoned the chase for Clearwire.

Dish Network declined comment.

Clearwire had earlier tapped into financing from Sprint -- $80 million in March and another $80 million in April -- that Dish had said earlier would cause it to abandon its deal. But in a conference call with analysts on May 9 to discuss its first quarter results, Dish chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen touted the Clearwire asset.

“We see huge value in Sprint Clearwire,” Ergen said on the May conference call.

Clearwire had planned to hold a special meeting of shareholders on May 21 to vote on its pending deal with Japanese wireless carrier SoftBank. SoftBank, which currently has a $20.1 billion offer to acquire Sprint on the table, had said that the inclusion of Clearwire spectrum was crucial to the transaction.

In a statement, Clearwire said in light of the new Dish offer it has postponed the shareholders’ meeting until May 30.

In a research note, Nomura Research media analyst Mike McCormack wrote that he viewed the new Sprint offer as a “move as a logical sweetener that has a limited impact to Sprint.” He added the new bid represents a $311 million increase to the existing $2.1 billion bid for the remainder of Clearwire it doesn’t already own.”

Clearwire shares were up about 5% (17 cents per share) to $3.43 each in early trading Tuesday.