Clearwire agrees to new, higher Sprint offer

Sprint would pay $5 per share to buy out the rest of its wireless partner, beating Dish Network's most recent bid

Sprint Nextel has offered and Clearwire has accepted a bid of US$5 per share for the struggling wireless network provider, raising the stakes yet again in an expensive bidding war between Sprint and satellite service provider Dish Network.

The new offer boosts Sprint's willingness to pay by nearly 50 percent from its previous bid of $3.40 per share and beats Dish's latest offer of $4.40 per share. The bid values Clearwire at about $14 billion.

The fate of Clearwire is the key question remaining in a long-running battle between Sprint and Dish, a mobile upstart that this year has tried to buy both Clearwire and Sprint itself. Amid growing demand for mobile data capacity, Clearwire's massive spectrum holdings could be a decisive asset for any company that owned them. Sprint's plans call for an LTE network being built by Clearwire to complement Sprint's own LTE network in areas of high demand.

Earlier this month, Clearwire's board of directors had endorsed Dish's latest bid of $4.40 per share. But once again, Sprint has increased what it's willing to pay for the company. Its original bid for Clearwire last December was $2.90 per share. In a clear effort to demonstrate how much Clearwire shareholders have to gain from its latest offer, the companies said on Thursday that the new bid represents a 285 percent premium to Clearwire's closing price on Oct. 10 last year, just before reports about a possible SoftBank buyout of Sprint started to drive up Clearwire's shares.

On Monday, Sprint sued to block Dish's bid for Clearwire, saying the plan would violate commitments Clearwire had already made in a shareholder agreement.

Sprint plans to buy out Clearwire as part of a larger deal in which Japanese service provider SoftBank plans to pay $21.6 billion to take over Sprint. Dish had attempted to derail that deal, too, offering $25.5 billion for Sprint, but on Tuesday the satellite company said it was dropping that plan.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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