| NEW YORK, April 17
NEW YORK, April 17 Omega Advisors, one of the
biggest shareholders in Sprint Nextel Corp, on Wednesday
joined a growing group of investors who say they favor Dish
Network Corp's $25.5 billion bid for the company over
SoftBank Corp's offer.
Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen on Monday announced a challenge
to SoftBank's $20.1 billion offer to buy 70 percent of No. 3
U.S. mobile provider Sprint, prompting support from shareholders
including activist Paulson & Co. on Tuesday.
Leon Cooperman, the chairman of Omega Advisors Inc, a holder
of both Dish and Sprint shares, said Ergen is currently in the
lead in terms of valuation even as he praised Japan's SoftBank
and its billionaire founder Masayoshi Son.
"We think that Dish's bid at the moment is superior,"
Cooperman said. "At the end of the day either company would make
a good steward. They have to decide what its worth to them."
Omega now owns 75 million Sprint shares after adding some
recent stock purchases, according to Cooperman. Omega was
Sprint's 10th biggest shareholder as of Dec 31 when it held 56
million Sprint shares and 3.7 million Dish shares according to
the most recent public filings.
While Dish shares fell after the bid was announced on Monday
on concerns it could end up over-paying, the stock has recovered
as support for the offer appeared strong.
Even if Dish gets into a bidding war with SoftBank,
Cooperman said he is happy with his Dish investment as he sees a
combination with Sprint as an "excellent use" of the wireless
spectrum Ergen spent billions of dollars buying in recent years.
"We think that Dish is undervalued so we don't mind getting
more Dish stock ... We think if Dish wins Sprint, we can see
conditions where Dish could be worth, in a couple of years time,
$50," he said.
Dish's bid includes $4.76 in cash and 0.05953 share of Dish
stock for each Sprint share and would leave Sprint shareholders
with a 32 percent ownership of the combined company. The offer,
which works out to $7 per share, represents a premium of roughly
12 percent to Sprint's close on Friday.
Cooperman's comments follows support for Dish from other
Sprint shareholders on the day the deal was announced.
A money manager at one of the operator's top 25 shareholders
told Reuters on Monday that they would vote for the deal. Merger
arbitrage firm Westchester Capital, which held 12 million Sprint
shares at the end of 2012 also said that the Dish offer appeared
to be better deal than the SoftBank agreement.
SoftBank's Son is expected to stay in the battle to buy
Sprint even though he could make a profit of about $3.5 billion
by walking away. SoftBank analysts have said they expect the
Japanese company to sweeten its bid.
But Cooperman said he does not expect Ergen to overpay.
"At the end of the day we're prepared to allow Charlie to
determine what is too much and what is not too much ... He's not
going to be crazy. He's too rational. He's too smart." he said.
"You're dealing with two very smart guys. We're just going to
sit back and let them go."
Sprint shares closed down 1.5 percent on Wednesday at $7.09
but were still 14 percent above their close the day before the
Dish offer emerged. Dish shares closed down 9 cents at $37.83 on
Wednesday but were still up 2.5 percent than their April 12