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FCC Approves Sprint, Clearwire Buyouts Over Rival's Objection

Despite a furious national security objection by rival DISH Network Corporation, the Federal Communications Commission has approved the $21.6 billion acquisition of Sprint Nextel Corporation by SoftBank of Japan. After the order was released on Friday, SoftBank moved forward quickly and announced it expects to complete the transaction by tomorrow, July 10.

Sprint was also seeking to purchase the other half of the broadband network Clearwire, of which it already controls half, and the FCC's order also allowed that deal to move forward. Clearwire's shareholders approved that acquisition yesterday, so the nested deals appear to be on track.

Sprint's rival DISH, while attempting to mount its own takeover bid, had challenged SoftBank's acquisition of Sprint on national security grounds because of the company's ties to Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturers. That challenge had kept the deal in limbo for months, even though the Treasury Department's the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States reviewed the national security issues and approved the deal in May.

Sprint shareholders voted to approve the acquisition last month, but anxious investors were still concerned about a possible FCC denial based on the DISH objection.

That concern turns out to have been unfounded. On Friday, the FCC denied DISH's challenge, saying instead that the deal would actually benefit consumers because SoftBank and Sprint aren't competitors within the U.S. One FCC commissioner made a statement praising the acquisition as allowing consumers of advanced wireless products and services to benefit from an "invigorated company" and emphasizing that the companies stand to gain substantially from the deal.

"As we've now shown that regulation need not impede access to the international financial markets and foreign capital," he said in a statement.

Sources: 

  • The New York Times' DealBook, "F.C.C. Clears Sprint Deals With SoftBank and Clearwire," July 5, 2013
  • Reuters, "Clearwire shareholders vote for Sprint takeover," Bryan Cohen and Sinead Carew, July 8, 2013
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