WASHINGTON, April 18 Dish Network Corp
is asking U.S. regulators to suspend the review of the proposed
acquisition of Sprint Nextel Corp to Japan's SoftBank Corp
, saying its own counter-bid would be preferable for
U.S. national security reasons.
Dish in the past has asked the Federal Communications
Commission for such a suspension, but in a filing posted online
on Thursday, the satellite TV provider reinforced the request
with arguments promoting its own, unsolicited $25.5 billion bid
made for Sprint on Monday.
Sprint spokesman John Taylor declined comment. Sprint's
board, which previously agreed to the SoftBank offer, is now
studying the Dish offer.
In the filing, Dish touted the premium its bid would offer
Sprint shareholders and also pointed to SoftBank's foreign
origin, saying that the Japanese company lacked the "existing
in-market infrastructure," among other things.
"DISH's merger proposal is better for American consumers,
better for Sprint shareholders, and better for U.S. national
security than the SoftBank proposal," the filing says.
Dish asked the FCC to withhold its ruling on the merger
until Sprint's board responds to its own offer.
The FCC declined to comment on the matter.
Federal regulators put extra scrutiny on merger deals
involving foreign-owned entities to ensure independence and
protection of the U.S. networks, though these matters tend to be
led by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS)
rather than the FCC.
Charlie Ergen, chairman of the No. 2 U.S. satellite TV
company Dish, is challenging SoftBank's $20.1 billion offer to
buy 70 percent of the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider Sprint,
prompting support from major shareholders including hedge funds
Paulson & Co and Omega Advisors.
Verizon Communications Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo
said in an interview on Thursday that the battle between Dish
and SoftBank would ultimately help the U.S. wireless industry.
Sprint's biggest rival is Verizon Wireless, a venture of
Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.
"Anything that builds the industry from an investment
standpoint is good," Shammo said after his own company's
earnings report. Shammo added that both contenders for Sprint
are "equally as good."
"There are carriers that need additional investment and this
is a great way to get there," Shammo said.
"They're confirming what we've been saying, which is that
there's a lot of growth left in the wireless business," Shammo
added. "You've a foreign investor and a domestic investor who
now agree on that."
Shammo declined to say whether Dish or SoftBank would be a
more formidable opponent to Verizon Wireless and No. 2 U.S.
mobile service provider AT&T Inc.
Shares of Sprint rose 5 cents to $7.15 on Thursday. They had
jumped sharply on the news of Dish's bid, which was the boldest
step yet by Ergen, who has spent billions of dollars on wireless
spectrum in the last few years. Dish shares were also up 2 cents