Sprint acquires majority stake in Clearwire

19 October 2012 | Kavit Majithia


Sprint Nextel has bought a stake in mobile broadband operator Clearwire and re-established its majority equity stake in the company.

The third largest operator in the US already held a 48% stake in the company, and it has now taken the step to buy out Clearwire founder Craig McCaw’s stake in the wireless operator.

The move comes in the same week that Japanese company Softbank announced plans to acquire a 70% stake in Sprint.

Market watchers consider Sprint’s latest play as vital to the Japanese company now being able to build a nationwide 4G LTE network, and rival services being constructed by leading operators Verizon and AT&T.

Sprint’s move now means it does not have to pay out to acquire the whole company in order to control it, consequently increasing its voting stake in Clearwire to 50.8%.

The deal, however, could mean increased scrutiny by US regulators with regards to the Softbank deal, and AT&T may still point to the fact that its bid for T-Mobile was blocked last year by the FCC on anti-competition grounds.

McCaw founded Clearwire 10 years ago, but has not controlled the company since 2007.

Taking control of Clearwire could be only the first step for Sprint to gain further traction in the US wireless market. According to Reuters, Softbank’s CEO Masoyoshi Son has not ruled out making a bid for MetroPCS.

Rivalling operator T-Mobile had confirmed its interests in acquiring MetroPCS last month, but Son and Sprint CEO, Dan Hesse, have said the company will pursue mergers with other wireless companies if opportunities present themselves.