Dish Network Corp., which made a counter-bid for Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) this week, asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to defer action on Softbank Corp. (9984)’s offer while the mobile provider decides which to accept.
Dish’s $25.5 billion bid for Sprint made April 15 is “an important new development” that increases uncertainty surrounding the $20 billion bid Tokyo-based Softbank made in October, Dish said in a filing yesterday at the FCC. “Because Dish’s merger proposal is currently before the Sprint board of directors, the question of which transaction the commission ultimately should be deciding is unsettled.”
John Taylor, a spokesman for Sprint, and Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment.Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kansas, said this week that its board will evaluate Dish’s offer. The Englewood, Colorado- based satellite-television company’s proposal has gained support from investor Omega Advisors and billionaire John Paulson.
The bid by Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, like that by Softbank President Masayoshi Son, would enhance third-largest U.S. wireless carrier Sprint’s potency as a challenger to market leader Verizon Wireless and No. 2 AT&T Inc.
Dish wants to move into wireless as growth slows in its traditional pay-TV business. The company on Jan. 16 asked the FCC to delay consideration of the Softbank bid, citing uncertainty created by Dish’s pursuit of Sprint partner Clearwire Corp. This week’s offer for Sprint means the “critical issue” no longer revolves around Clearwire, Dish said in its filing.
“It is far from clear that the pending Sprint-Softbank proposal will move forward,” Dish said.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on March 20 said the agency’s review of the Softbank bid was on track for completion by late May. Antitrust regulators at the Justice Department cleared the deal in December. The same agencies would review a Dish bid for Sprint.
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