Crest urges changing Clearwire minority vote threshold

NEW YORK Tue May 28, 2013 12:18pm EDT

People walk past a Sprint store in New York December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

People walk past a Sprint store in New York December 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crest Financial, an investor in Clearwire Corp, said on Tuesday that the voting threshold for approval of Sprint Nextel Corp's purchase of Clearwire should exclude strategic investors such as Comcast Corp and Intel.

Sprint, Clearwire's majority owner, needs approval from more than 50 percent of Clearwire's minority shareholders in order to go ahead with its proposed $3.40-per-share purchase of the rest of Clearwire.

Strategic investors Intel, Comcast and Bright House Networks have already committed to vote their collective 26 percent of the minority shares in favor of the deal at a special meeting of shareholders scheduled for Friday, May 31.

Crest, which is leading a proxy battle against the deal, argued that the strategic shares are "pledged to support Sprint regardless of the alternatives available" and that Sprint is obliged to purchase these shares even if it loses the Clearwire vote.

Crest, which owns roughly 8 percent of Clearwire's public shares, said that "for all intents and purposes these are Sprint shares, and their votes should not be counted as minority approval."

Crest also urged Clearwire shareholders to vote against the deal.

Clearwire declined comment on the Crest statement. It issued a letter urging shareholders to approve the Sprint deal.

Sprint was forced to raise its offer from $2.97 per share on May 21 after many of Clearwire's minority shareholders complained that the original bid was too low.

But the new offer had failed to impress several big investors, including Crest and a group of four hedge funds claiming ownership of 18.2 percent of the minority vote.

The deal is contingent on the completion of SoftBank Corp's proposed purchase of 70 percent of Sprint for $20.1 billion.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; editing by John Wallace)

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