Sprint has upped its offer for Clearwire, outbidding Dish and signing a deal which requires Clearwire to cough up $115m if the acquisition fails for any reason – outmanoeuvring Dish yet again.
The Clearwire board had voted in favour of the Dish offer, which at $4.40 per share was a dollar up on Sprint's original bid.
But this time Sprint has 45 per cent of the existing shareholders on side, with an offer of $5 a share. That was enough to get Clearwire signed up to a $155m lock-in clause, along with an agreement to hold a vote as soon as practical; all for an offer which values Clearwire at a shade over $14bn.
Sprint is already Clearwire's majority shareholder, but this deal will give the operator complete control of Clearwire and unrestricted access to its radio spectrum.
Dish really wanted that spectrum, a vital component in its bid to build a new national phone network across America. It wanted Sprint, too, gaining infrastructure for that network, but was outbid and outmaneuvered by SoftBank which now looks almost certain to take control of Sprint.
That leaves Dish holding a whole pile of borrowed money, and few ways to turn it into telephony gold. Just like LightSquared before it, Dish has found that getting into the mobile telephone business is much harder than it looks. ®