* Dish abandons its pursuit of Sprint
* SoftBank CEO says considered T-Mobile buy as "Plan B"
* SoftBank sees Sprint cutting costs by $2 bln a year
By Mari Saito and Liana B. Baker
TOKYO/NEW YORK, June 21 SoftBank Corp
CEO Masayoshi Son said on Friday he was confident his company's
acquisition of Sprint Nextel Corp will be completed in
early July after rival bidder Dish Network Corp bowed
SoftBank, a Japanese mobile network operator, is heading
into the home stretch as it tries to push through the largest
overseas acquisition by a Japanese company in history.
Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service provider, is also
working with SoftBank to buy out small wireless company
Dish on Friday made clear that it has abandoned efforts to
buy Sprint. It said in a regulatory filing that it was returning
to bondholders the $2.6 billion in debt it had raised to fund
the proposed acquisition.
Son, SoftBank's billionaire founder, told an annual
shareholders meeting attended by more than 2,000 that Dish's
failure to raise its offer for Sprint this week brought the
Japanese company closer to sealing the $21.6 billion deal.
The hard-driving executive also said his ambition would not
end with closing the Sprint deal. He began his presentation with
a simple slide that read "big liar," explaining that he has been
called this many times because of his far-reaching goals.
"Today I want to make another outlandish statement. That is
to become the No. 1 company in the world," Son said. "I know we
can be the world's top company in terms of profit, cashflow,
shareholder value, in every sense."
SoftBank last week raised its bid for Sprint by increasing
its cash payments to shareholders to win their support, while
reducing its direct capital investment in Sprint, which needs
billions of dollars to beef up its network.
On Friday, Son played down worries that the reduced funding
to Sprint might hinder the U.S. company's ability to invest in
new network infrastructure, saying the acquisition would allow
Sprint to achieve average annual savings of 200 billion yen ($2
billion) over the next four years.
SoftBank still needs to win approval from the U.S. Federal
Communications Commission as well as a positive vote from Sprint
shareholders, who are due to vote on the deal on June 25.
Dish's challenge, launched in April, forced SoftBank to
consider other options, Son said, including buying No. 4 U.S.
mobile carrier T-Mobile US Inc, which is 74
percent-owned by Deutsche Telekom AG.
Sprint moved on Thursday to take the upper hand in a related
battle with Dish over Clearwire, raising its buyout offer to $5
per share. The raise won support from a key group of dissident
SoftBank shareholders applauded at Friday's meeting when Son
said Sprint's bid had now won the support of Clearwire, which
holds valuable wireless airwaves Sprint needs to compete.
Dish said earlier this week that it would turn its attention
to winning Clearwire shares, but it has yet to respond to
Sprint's latest offer for the company.
SoftBank's shares fell 1.8 percent on Friday to 5,360 yen,
compared with a drop of 0.7 percent in the benchmark Nikkei
Son, a rare risk taker in Japan's conservative corporate
culture, started with just two other employees in the 1980s. Now
he is looking to expand beyond the mature Japan market.
SoftBank's shares fell to an eight-month low after it
announced its Sprint bid last October, but since the start of
this year they have climbed more than 70 percent as optimism
mounted over the deal. The Nikkei is up nearly 25 percent this
Last month SoftBank shares rose as high as 6,100 yen, their
best level since the dot-com bubble burst more than a decade
Sprint shares fell 1.55 percent to $6.97 in early trade