NEW YORK (Reuters) - Clearwire Corp CLWR.O expects to snag another round of funding late this year or early 2011 and may raise as much as $2 billion from selling wireless spectrum, according to its finance chief Erik Prusch.
Clearwire, which is 54 percent owned by Sprint Nextel (S.N), needs billions of dollars more funding to complete construction of its high-speed wireless network even after a $1.3 billion debt offering last week.
It is considering an equity investment from a strategic partner like Sprint and a sale of wireless airwaves that it does not need for its service.
Prusch said the company is half-way though a spectrum auction and has had interest from several partners who are doing due diligence.
“We would be looking to find up to $2 billion from a sale,” Prusch told reporters after his presentation at a UBS investor conference, adding that it was still not clear if Clearwire would look for both equity funding and a spectrum sale.
“The question is whether we close either or both,” Prusch said.
Besides Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service Clearwire has also had talks about an equity investment from T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE).
Clearwire shares were up 1.8 percent at $6.14 after the comments. The stock had fallen 13 percent in a single day last week as investors were disappointed it had gone to the debt markets and that it had not raised more money.
The financing talks are taking place as Clearwire’s relationship with Sprint has turned tense. Sprint, which uses Clearwire’s network to sell wireless services, has objected to Clearwire’s strategy to also sell directly to consumers.
But Prusch told the audience at the UBS conference that Clearwire’s retail service is a core part of the company’s business.
Aside from their dispute about retail services, Sprint and Clearwire are also due to start arbitration proceedings next year over a disagreement over wholesale service fees that Sprint pays to Clearwire.
Prusch said he was “cautiously optimistic” the companies could come to an agreement before formal arbitration begins.
Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Derek Caney, Dave Zimmerman