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Dish Network drops bid for Sprint’s wireless network partner Clearwire

Updated: 2013-06-27T03:05:05Z

By MARK DAVIS

The Kansas City Star

Dish Network Corp., the satellite television company that recently abandoned plans to buy Sprint Nextel Corp., now has dropped its offer to buy shares of Clearwire Corp.

Clearwire is Sprint’s wireless network partner and a key player in Sprint’s plan to compete against rivals Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

Dish’s withdrawal, announced Wednesday, opens the way for Sprint to complete its planned purchase of the roughly 49 percent of Clearwire it doesn’t already own, said Jeff Silva, a telecommunications analyst at Medley Global Advisors.

Since January, Dish’s pursuit of Clearwire has been a disruption in Sprint’s plans to buy out Clearwire’s other owners. A Sprint spokesman declined to comment.

Dish similarly had made bids to buy Overland Park-based Sprint, disrupting Sprint’s agreement to sell a controlling stake to Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp. Sprint shareholders approved the SoftBank transaction Tuesday after Dish said last week it had abandoned its pursuit of Sprint.

In a statement Wednesday, Dish said it was withdrawing its offer to buy Clearwire shares directly from investors. It said the offer, at $4.40 a share, could be withdrawn if it lost the support of Clearwire’s board, which happened last week.

Dish had conditioned the offer on being able to buy at least 25 percent of Clearwire’s stock.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Dish did not use the word “abandon,” as it had when it dropped its pursuit of Sprint. However, the filing said, “The minimum condition is no longer capable of being satisfied.” Dish had not yet bought any shares under the offer.

A Dish spokesman could not be reached for comment beyond the filing.

The battle over Clearwire began with the wireless company’s agreement to merge into Sprint under a deal that would have paid investors $2.97 a share. Bidding back and forth from Dish and Sprint ended with a new merger agreement with Sprint at $5 for each Clearwire share.

Clearwire shareholders are set to vote on the Sprint deal July 8.

Shares of Clearwire gained 4 cents in trading Wednesday and closed at $5.09. The higher price suggests that some bidders had expected another offer from Dish, which made its announcement after the market had closed.

Sprint, SoftBank and Clearwire continue to wait for approval from the Federal Communications Commission to complete their deals.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com.

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