Clearwire to raise $1.1 billion to ease cash crunch

Issuance of debt will allow company to continue building out wireless network

When wireless service provider Clearwater announced widening losses early in November, the company warned that uncertainty about its ability to obtain sufficient additional capital "raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.” On Friday Clearwire removed some of that uncertainty, announcing plans to raise more than $1.1 billion through the issuance of debt, giving the company more time to complete the build-out of its next-generation wireless network. (Also see: Will Clearwire drown in a river of red?)

What's not entirely clear is how much time the extra cash will buy. Clearwire said last month that it could run out of money by the middle of 2011. Whether the $1.1 billion can get it through next year and beyond depends on its cash burn rate and the speed with which it constructs its network. Beyond the debt offering, Clearwire is considering selling some of the wireless spectrum it owns as well as equity in the company. Clearwire also said last month it would lay off 15 percent of its 4,200 employees, delay its entry into some U.S. markets, and postpone plans for a Clearwire-branded smartphone. (Given how crowded the smartphone market has become this year, that last one's probably a good move.) Sprint Nextel owns 54 percent of Clearwire. The debt offering eases some of the pressure Sprint is under to keep the company going. Shares of Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) rose 13 cents, or 2.2 percent, to 6.03 on Friday after hitting a 52-week low of 5.70 earlier in the day.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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