FCC not seeking divestitures in Sprint/Clearwire/SoftBank deal

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:06pm 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

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. regulators do not plan to ask Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) or Clearwire Corp CLWR.O 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 (9984.T) 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 (DISH.O) 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.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Washington and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Chris Gallagher)

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