Sprint Nextel Corp. on Thursday raised its offer to minority shareholders of Clearwire Corp., a wireless network operator, topping a competing bid from satellite broadcaster Dish Network Corp. and nearly doubling its initial offer.
Sprint is now offering $5 per Clearwire share, valuing the company’s equity at $7.4 billion. Sprint, the country’s third-largest cellphone carrier, already owns just over half of Clearwire’s stock.
Clearwire’s board recommended that shareholders accept the new offer. It had previously endorsed Dish’s offer.
Sprint is Clearwire’s biggest customer, and it uses the network to provide “Sprint 4G” service on many of its phones. However, Sprint doesn’t control Clearwire, and the companies have had a contentious relationship. Now, Sprint is selling a majority stake in itself to Softbank Corp. of Japan, giving it the financial means to consolidate Clearwire, which has a lot of space on the airwaves for wireless broadband.
Sprint started out offering $2.97 per share for Clearwire in December. Dish, which is trying to buy its way into the wireless industry, put in a bid of $3.30 in January. Sprint countered with a “best and final offer” of $3.40 per share in May.
Clearwire shareholders were set to vote on Dish’s offer on Monday. The company postponed the meeting until July 8.
Clearwire shares rose 31 cents, or 6.6 percent, to $5.01 in afternoon trading. Sprint shares rose 9 cents to $7.09.
Dish also placed a bid for Sprint, but gave up the fight against Softbank earlier this week, saying it would focus on buying Clearwire instead. Some analysts believe buying T-Mobile US Inc. is a “Plan C” for Dish if the acquisitions of Sprint and Clearwire both fail. T-Mobile shares rose 51 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $22.74.
Dish fell 42 cents to $38.84.