By Sinead Carew
NEW YORK, June 12 Clearwire Corp's
board urged shareholders on Wednesday to accept a tender offer
from Dish Network Corp over an earlier deal with
majority owner Sprint Nextel Corp to buy out the minority
shareholders of the wireless service provider.
The decision was a boost for Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen who
is also in a takeover battle with SoftBank Corp to take
full control of Sprint.
Both Sprint and satellite TV service provider Dish want
control of Clearwire's vast trove of wireless airwave licenses.
Dish is looking to expand into the wireless market because
its traditional pay television business has matured, while No. 3
U.S. mobile provider Sprint wants to beef up its wireless
network to better compete with bigger rivals Verizon Wireless
and AT&T Inc.
Clearwire asked shareholders to accept Dish's tender offer
of $4.40 per share based on the unanimous recommendation of a
special committee set up by the board to evaluate the offer. It
urged investors to vote against Sprint's $3.40 per share offer
to buy the more than 49 percent of the company it does not
Sprint said it was evaluating Clearwire's statement and
would "review any corresponding filings before determining its
next steps." It said it intends to enforce its governance rights
as Clearwire's majority shareholder. It previously said its
$3.40 per share bid was final.
Clearwire said it would postpone a June 13 shareholder vote
on the Sprint bid until June 24. Dish said on Wednesday it was
extending its tender offer for Clearwire shares to July 2 from a
previous deadline of June 28.
Dish also said shareholders with 245,411 shares had tendered
shares as of Tuesday, June 11.
Several Clearwire shareholders had said they were not happy
with the Sprint offer even before Dish's counter bid. Clearwire
shares have risen more than 25 percent since Dish announced its
offer. The stock closed at $3.48 on May 29 before Ergen made the
offer and was about 5 percent higher at $4.37 by the end of
trading on Wednesday.
Strategic investors with 13 percent of Clearwire's public
shares have already committed to vote for the Sprint offer. But
it was not clear if those commitments from Intel Corp
and cable companies Comcast Corp, and privately held
Brighthouse Networks would be maintained after the Clearwire
Intel declined to comment on Wednesday's developments.
Comcast and Brighthouse were not immediately available for
SoftBank, which approved the Sprint bid for Clearwire, had
previously said it would be happy with majority ownership of
Clearwire even if shareholders voted down the deal because
Sprint would still control of the company.
Earlier this week, SoftBank raised its bid for Sprint to
$21.6 billion for 78 percent of the company in response to
Dish's offer of $25.5 billion.