UPDATE: SoftBank ups offer for Sprint Nextel
According to the Financial Times the Japanese mobile operator has upped both the cash and the percentage ownership of Sprint Nextel it requires as part of the deal. If accepted it will own a 78 per cent stake instead of the 70 per cent slice it was looking for before.
That's less than the $25.5 billion Dish is offering, but Sprint has announced that it no longer believes that Dish offer will eventually lead to a better deal than SoftBank's and has therefore ended discussions.
Even so, Sprint has adjourned the shareholder's decision deadline until June 25th and given Dish a week to surprise it with a final, fully-funded offer. If it doesn't it seems most likely that the SoftBank deal will go through.
We reported 10/06/13: In the most recent developments, SoftBank is running parallel talks with T-Mobile as an alternative purchase and Dish is continuing to play up SoftBank's Huawei connections. (see - Contortions: SoftBank bends over backwards to please the US govt...).
But SoftBank has also had a green light. The US Department of Justice now says it has no objection to SoftBank's acquiring Sprint Nextel. That means that the FCC is now clear to rule on the deal.
The fact that SoftBank and T-Mobile are engaged in ongoing talks about the possibility of the Japanese mobile giant buying the DT-owned US mobile network should its current attempt on Sprint-Nextel fail, shouldn't be a surprise.
Why wouldn't SoftBank's CEO, Masayoshi Son, crafty old fox that he is, keep some prudent irons in the fire in case the first deal falls through? The fact that the parallel talks have suddenly been leaked/planted is probably just one more way to put some pressure on Sprint shareholders because, unless it delays, they're supposed to decide on Wednesday whether to accept the Softbank offer.
The fly in the ointment, from the Softbank point of view, is Dish Network's counter-offer which values Sprint at $25.5 billion while SoftBank’s stands at $20.1 billion. As Dish hasn't formalised that offer yet it could be that Sprint shareholders decide to wait until it does.
But that's not the big difficulty for Sprint shareholders and Mr Son. Dish’s CEO, Charles Ergen (an ex professional gambler, his opponents often like to point out) is offering a hard-to-measure cash-and-stock bid pumped up by the fact that Dish, a satellite TV operator of course, has a large spectrum holding that can (maybe) be turned to wireless broadband purposes, pumping up the 2 and 2 could make considerably more than 4 pitch Ergen is laying before Sprint shareholders.
Then, just to make matters a tad more murky, Mr Ergen has played his 'made in Japan' card and thrown in the fact that SoftBank is a big user of Huawei kit and therefore a threat to national security.
SoftBank hasn't taken all this on the chin. In addition to flagging up the possibility of its going with T-Mobile instead, it has been dissing the Dish offer as flakey and last week it won crucial points when shareholder advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) said that Sprint Nextel shareholders should vote for SoftBank. There's still everything to play for.