Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), the wireless powerhouse, has announced that they have entered into an agreement that will allow them to acquire the remaining shares of the wireless broadband provider Clearwire Corporation (NASDAQ: CLWR). Sprint already owns approximately 50% of the shares, and will buy out the rest for $2.97 a share, which equates to $2.2 billion paid to the remaining shareholders. This buyout will bring Clearwire’s total value to roughly $10 billion, which includes the $5.5 billion debt Clearwire currently has.
Sprint Nextel previously went by the name of Sprint Corporation until 2005 when merged with Nextel Communications. They offer a wide range of wireless services and serve over 56 million customers. The acquisition of Clearwire, in conjunction with what Sprint already owns, will help solidify Sprint’s position in the competitive wireless industry.
Clearwire Corporation is one of the leading providers of wireless broadband services. They offer services in most areas of the United States, and currently hold the biggest wireless spectrum portfolio. They offer services through their own CLEAR brand, as well as through other companies like Sprint and NetZero.
A quick search of USPTO records via FreePatentsOnline identifies Clearwire as the assignee of at least the following 10 patents:
- U.S. Patent No. 7,161,922 — Methods and apparatus for dynamically assigning time slots in a wireless communication system . “A wireless communication system having a base unit and a plurality of remote transceiver units utilizes a dynamic time slot assignment scheme for channel access. The base unit receives and processes a channel access request message from a remote transceiver unit and prepares a channel measurement request message in response.”
- U.S. Patent No. 6,968,371 — Design for scalable network management systems . “A system and methodology for building highly scalable Network Management Systems (NMS)s for the management of large voice and data networks is provided.”
- U.S. Patent No. 7,324,495 — System and method for broadcasting timing information to remote units in a wireless multiple access network . “A method has been provided for using the broadcast channel of a wireless multiple access network to communicate network timing information, or a time-stamp, to remote units.”
- U.S. Patent No. 7,526,290 — Establishing a communication channel in a wireless network. “A method of operating a communication system is disclosed. The method includes transmitting from a remote unit to a base station remote unit channel data.”
- U.S. Patent No. 6,868,120 — Real-time system for measuring the Ricean K-factor. “A system and method for measuring the Ricean K-factor of a wireless channel in real time are provided.”
- U.S. Patent No. 7,177,650 — Method and apparatus for use in reducing overutilization of RF communication system resources. “A method of allocating resources in a network is disclosed. The method includes accessing data from a fixed wireless loop network having a plurality of stations that are each associated with a plurality of remote units.”
- U.S. Patent No. 7,085,280 — Location optimization and base assignment tool for creating optimal switch-base station networks in the wireless industry. “A method for optimizing a communications network such as a wireless telecommunications network, having central switch nodes and intermediate base station transport nodes, via a non-hierarchical clustering technique is provided. At least one of the central switch nodes may be fixed in location, the remaining central switch nodes being moveable.”
- U.S. Patent No. 8,126,428 — Subscriber management system for a communication network. “A subscriber management system for a communication system having a radio access network coupled to by a gateway node to a packet switched network.”
- U.S. Patent No. 6,898,413 — Method for seamless port capability for an alternative service provider. “A method provides seamless porting of a user telephone number from a first telephone service provider network to a second telephone service provider network.”
- U.S. Patent No. 7,460,561 — Delay compensation. “In a discrete tone system, a base station receives a transmission burst from a remote unit being installed that includes delay compensation pilot tones that are uniformly spread throughout the transmission bandwidth.”
Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel, stated that the Clearwire transaction: “marks yet another significant step in Sprint’s improved competitive position and ability to offer customers better products, more choices and better services. Sprint is uniquely positioned to maximize the value of Clearwire’s spectrum and efficiently deploy it to increase Sprint’s network capacity. We believe this transaction, particularly when leveraged with our SoftBank relationship, is further validation of our strategy and allows Sprint to control its network destiny.”
This transaction was universally approved by Clearwire’s Board of Directors atop the recommendation by a special committee that consisted of disinterested directors that were not appointed by Sprint. Clearwire CEO and President Erik Prusch stated that, “Our board of directors has been reviewing available strategic alternatives over the course of the last two years. In evaluating available alternatives, a special committee conducted a careful and rigorous process, and based on the committee’s recommendation, our board unanimously determined that this transaction, which delivers certain and attractive value for our shareholders, is the best path forward.”
Sprint has also gained the support of shareholders Intel Corp, Comcast Corp and Bright House Networks LLC, who collectively own about 13 percent of the voting shares. However, not all the shareholders were so compliant to start. Crest Financial, which has a 6.6% stake in Clearwire, had previously stated that they would take the necessary action to protect Clearwire’s shareholders from Sprint’s “unfair” offer. Mount Kellett Capital Management, which has a minor share in the company, is in agreement with Crest Financial and warned Clearwire against selling itself at such a discounted price.
The transaction has been approved, but is still subject to customary closing conditions which include regulatory approvals and approval from the stockholders. It is also contingent on the finalization of Sprint’s transaction with SoftBank, a Japanese telecommunications company that in investing $20.1 billion in Sprint, and will own approximately 70% of the company. The Sprint/SoftBank transaction is set to close mid-2013.
With the acquisition of Clearwire, Sprint stands to gain a lot in terms of money and status. After merging with Nextel and now buying out Clearwire, Sprint seems to be securing itself as a big power player in the wireless communications industry.