By Nadia Damouni
NEW YORK Oct 14 Japanese mobile operator
Softbank Corp is near a $20 billion deal to acquire
control of U.S. carrier Sprint Nextel Corp, a source
familiar with the matter said, giving Sprint ammunition to shore
up its balance sheet and potentially acquire peers.
The deal, which could come as soon as Monday, is expected to
be structured in two parts: Softbank will provide about $8
billion of new capital and acquire an additional $12 billion
shares from Sprint holders, the source said.
Sprint first confirmed last Thursday that it was in talks
with Softbank about an investment that could involve a change in
control. Sources familiar with the Japanese company's thinking
have said Softbank has been seeking a foothold in the U.S.
market since last summer.
If Softbank does end up taking 70 percent of Sprint for $20
billion, that would imply the No. 3 U.S. wireless company was
worth about $28.6 billion, some two-thirds greater than its
market capitalization at Friday's close.
At $20 billion, the deal would also rank as the largest ever
overseas acquisition by a Japanese company, according to Thomson
Analysts and investors widely expect that if Sprint and
Softbank tie up, Sprint could use any equity infusion to acquire
the part of Clearwire Corp it does not already own,
particularly given that company's attractive spectrum assets.
Sprint representatives were not immediately available to
comment. A Clearwire spokesman declined comment. A Softbank
spokesman said he had no immediate comment and was still
checking media reports.
CNBC's David Faber reported the news earlier on Sunday.
The source of Softbank's financing was also not immediately
clear. People familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday
that the company was in talks with three Japanese banks to
borrow up to $23 billion for a deal.
Japanese media have reported that with Sprint in hand,
Softbank might look to take a second step as well and acquire
smaller U.S. carrier MetroPCS as well.
While Sprint's long interest in MetroPCS is well known, that
company already agreed earlier this month to merge with T-Mobile
USA, part of Deutsche Telekom AG.