UPDATE 1-FCC not seeking divestitures in Sprint/Clearwire/SoftBank deal

Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:02pm EDT

* FCC commissioners could vote on draft order as soon as Friday

* FCC approval is last hurdle in SoftBank's battle for Sprint

By Alina Selyukh and Sinead Carew

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, June 27 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators do not plan to ask Sprint Nextel Corp or Clearwire Corp to sell any spectrum as they near a vote on Sprint's proposed buyout of Clearwire, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The Federal Communications Commission is examining Sprint's proposed buyout of the shares it does not already own in Clearwire in the same review process as the $21.6 billion bid from Japan's SoftBank Corp to buy 78 percent of Sprint.

The FCC on Thursday indicated that it was close to making its call on the deals as acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said she has circulated a draft order recommending the approval of the deals to the FCC's other two commissioners.

She and the other two FCC commissioners could vote on the order as soon as Friday, after staff scour through more than 70 pages of the document compiled by FCC experts.

FCC approval is the very last hurdle in SoftBank's drawn-out battle to take control of Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. wireless provider. The deal would mark the largest-ever overseas acquisition by a Japanese company.

Clearwire is an important part of SoftBank's interest in Sprint because Clearwire holds a large amount of wireless airwaves that would help Sprint compete with bigger rivals.

SoftBank has already fended off aggressive rival bids by Dish Network Corp chairman and founder Charlie Ergen for both Sprint and Clearwire and won support from shareholders who had originally favored Dish's offer.

SoftBank has also received approval from U.S. antitrust and national security regulators as well as Sprint shareholders. The FCC has to weigh whether the deals are in the U.S. public's interest.

Crest Financial, a minority shareholder in Clearwire, had urged the FCC to require Sprint to divest some of Clearwire's spectrum in order to receive approval for the deal. But the FCC plans to make no such demands, according to the two sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the order are not yet public.

Crest declined to comment for the story.

Both Clearwire and Sprint said they were "very appreciative of the Chairwoman's action" on Thursday. SoftBank declined immediate comment.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
twospirits wrote:

Jun 27, 2013 10:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
nycnikato wrote:
It’s interesting that competition really doesn’t matter to the FCC. Is there some kind of big money, or bribery involved ?

Jun 28, 2013 8:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
koiulpoi wrote:
nycnikato – did you just say what I think you said? This is pro-competition. The big money is the sub-1 GHz spectrum tied up in the Big Two (VZW and ATT), which are some of the most anti-competitive companies on the planet. The reason this is even happening is that the FCC desperately wants a viable #3 (and #4, and…) in the wireless world.

I really don’t see how making #3 a more viable competitor is the same thing as competition not mattering.

Jun 28, 2013 9:29am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.