Sprint upbeat on iDen network

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel Corp S.N on Thursday shrugged off market concerns that it was having difficulties selling its iDen wireless network, saying it had multiple options.

Dan Hesse, president and CEO of Sprint Nextel, speaks during a keynote address at the CTIA Wireless convention in Las Vegas, Nevada April 1, 2008. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Sprint has been considering a sale of the iDen network, an asset it bought through its acquisition of Nextel in 2005 but struggled to integrate. Some analysts have questioned whether it could get a good deal amid a troubled financial market.

“We don’t have to do this. If we get an offer that’s compelling and delivering and all sorts of other things, we’ll absolutely consider it. If we don’t, we’ll hold on to it. It’s a valuable asset,” Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse told a Goldman Sachs conference.

Sprint shares rose 5.35 percent to $6.10, but remain far below their 2007 high of $19.70.

Pali Capital analyst Walter Piecyk said Hesse’s comments suggested there was a bid, or multiple bids, with which Sprint was happy.

“If there were no bidders or if the prices of those bidders were too low, there would be no point in saying they were looking at options,” he said, adding that the market may now be reassessing its previously low estimate of iDen’s value.

Piecyk also said investors may be relieved simply by the absence of bad news, amid challenges like the popularity of Apple Inc's AAPL.O iPhone -- which comes with service by rival AT&T Inc T.N -- and the weak economy.

“There was probably some concern that given all the positive press about the iPhone that maybe the company was going to come in and lower guidance,” he said.

CEO Hesse said there was little impact yet from the weaker U.S. economy, and troubled financial sector.

“Wireless is so core... We have not seen a big impact on the consumer side,” he said.

He also said he was confident in the company's ability to close a deal involving high-speed wireless Internet service Clearwire Corp CLWR.O as planned.

Sprint and several partners, mostly cable companies, are investing in a venture with Clearwire to build a network based on WiMAX, an emerging high-speed wireless technology.

Partners including Comcast Corp CMCSA.O, Time Warner Cable TWC.N, Intel Corp INTC.O, Google Inc GOOG.O and Bright House. (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)