Hard Sell for SoftBank

A deal that would lead to Japan’s mobile carrier of Softbank assuming a majority share in Sprint Nextel gained major traction this month by securing approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, CFIUS determined the $20 billion acquisition did not pose particular national security issues despite expression of concern by U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Schumer’s criticism was compelled by Softbank’s reliance on Chinese networking equipment and concern that the exchange could lead to U.S. networks becoming more vulnerable to hackers and spies. The panel’s approval was ultimately provided with a caveat that SoftBank and Sprint hire security personnel subject to approval by CFIUS-affiliated government agencies who will additionally be allowed to review and approve Sprint’s equipment operators and managed-service providers. The California Public Utilities Commission has also voted to approve the transaction in what represented the last leg of state-needed approval. These negotiations put the deal that much closer to final scrutinizing from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission who has yet to rule. Meanwhile, Sprint is still weighing a more than $25 billion counteroffer from the satellite TV service company known as Dish. SoftBank has agreed for Sprint to negotiate with Dish, who ironically, is going head-to-head against Sprint in another deal to buyout Clearwire Corporation. Sprint Nextel, who owns more than 50% of Clearwire’s shares, made a buyout offer of $3.40 per share acquiescing to pressure from shareholders. Dish has now countered with a $4.40 per share offer which equates to $6.5 billion. Anticipate more details to Dish out in the coming soon.

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