* Sprint gets waiver to consider $25.5 bln rival offer from
* SoftBank to issue 400 bln yen ($3.9 bln) in bonds in June
* Sprint says recommendation in favour of SoftBank offer not
By Mari Saito
TOKYO, May 21 Sprint Nextel Corp said its
Japanese suitor SoftBank Corp granted it a waiver
allowing it to consider a $25.5 billion rival bid by Dish
Network Corp, as pressure mounts on SoftBank to sweeten
its offer for the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier.
Sprint said its recommendation in favour of the SoftBank
agreement had not changed, although some major Sprint
shareholders including Paulson & Co and Omega Advisors have
publicly said the Dish offer looks better than SoftBank's deal.
SoftBank, which agreed last October to pay $20.1 billion for
a 70 percent stake in Sprint, said it was confident its bid
would prevail. It also announced in a separate filing on Tuesday
that it would issue 400 billion yen ($3.9 billion) in bonds in
June, the largest issuance ever by a non-financial Japanese
company, to help pay for the Sprint deal.
Softbank President Masayoshi Son and Dish's billionaire
founder Charlie Ergen are fighting a public battle for control
of Sprint after Dish offered to trump the Japanese firm's bid
Son travelled to the United States this month to sell his
offer to Sprint shareholders.
The waiver from SoftBank on various provisions of their
merger agreement, filed in New York on Monday, permits Sprint
and its representatives to furnish Dish with non-public
information and to engage in negotiations on Dish's offer.
On April 30, SoftBank waived some terms of its Sprint
agreement so Sprint could seek more info from Dish but said at
the time that the waiver did not allow Sprint to disclose
non-public information or to negotiate with Dish.
SoftBank had come under pressure to grant the waivers and to
consider improving its bid with some major Sprint shareholders
continuing to show support for Dish's offer.
Sprint said on Monday it "has not determined that the Dish
proposal in fact constitutes a superior offer under the existing
merger agreement (with SoftBank)." It added that there could be
no assurance the Dish proposal would ultimately lead to a
superior offer. Sprint has set a shareholder meeting for June 12
to vote on the SoftBank proposal.
Dish said it welcomed the waiver, which will allow full due
diligence with Sprint. "We remain confident that this process
will confirm the superiority of our proposal," Dish's Ergen said
in a statement.
Dish is working with Barclays Plc, Macquarie Group
, Jefferies and the Royal Bank of Canada to help
finance around $9 billion in debt needed for its offer.
SoftBank's Son has said Dish would cripple Sprint with debt
and is ill-prepared to run a wireless service. Son ruled out
raising its bid for Sprint earlier this month.
The Japanese company raised $3.3 billion last month in a
dual-tranche bond issued in dollars and euros to help fund the
planned Sprint acquisition. It also issued 300 billion yen in
bonds to retail investors in March.
SoftBank said on Monday it remained committed to completing
its transaction on the terms previously disclosed and expected
the deal to close on July 1 or as soon as possible thereafter.
SoftBank shares fell 3.3 percent to 5,880 yen in Tuesday
afternoon trade, compared with a 0.1 percent fall in Tokyo's
benchmark Nikkei. Its shares have more than doubled
since news emerged of its bid for Sprint, compared with the
Nikkei's 80 percent rise.