Sprint, SK in tech collaboration talks: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) - SK Telecom Co Ltd 017670.KS of South Korea and Sprint Nextel Corp S.N are in preliminary talks about collaborating on technology and are not discussing a merger, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

A customer looks at mobile phones at a shop of SK telecom Co. in Seoul in this file photo from July 10, 2007. Sprint Nextel Corp shares rose almost 14 percent on Tuesday after CNBC reported that South Korea's SK Telecom Co was in talks to buy the No. 3 U.S. wireless service.REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

Their comments came after cable news channel CNBC reported that SK was negotiating to buy Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service, which has been struggling to stem customer losses.

Sprint shares closed 9.44 percent higher.

“There are no acquisition talks going on right now between SK Telecom and Sprint. Any discussions that are going on are around technology collaboration,” said one source, who asked not to be identified because the person was not authorized to talk on the subject.

The talks may lead to the companies working together to create data applications for cell phones, according to this person, who said it was unclear if the discussions would come to anything.

Another source said the talks were in very early stages.

A third source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, also said there were no acquisition talks.

Sprint has already rejected a $5 billion investment by SK and a group of private equity firms, according to reports last year.

Both SK and Sprint run wireless networks based on the same CDMA technology, which is widely used in the United States.

They have also been looking at the emerging WiMAX technology for next-generation high-speed wireless data.

Sprint has struggled with customer service problems and issues related to integrating its 2005 Nextel Communications acquisition.

Sprint spokesman James Fisher declined comment and SK representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Sprint shares, which have fallen 30 percent since the end of last year, closed up 78 cents at $9.04 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Additional reporting by Jessica Hall in Philadelphia; Editing by Andre Grenon and Ted Kerr