Sprint reportedly studying buyout of rest of Clearwire

Sprint Nextel Corp. is studying strategic options for its wireless partner Clearwire Corp., including a full takeover of the business, according to Bloomberg News reports based on interviews with two people with knowledge of the situation.

As part of the discussions, Overland Park-based Sprint is in talks to buy out Clearwire’s minority shareholders, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks aren’t public. Sprint, which owns more than 50 percent of Clearwire, agreed to buy Eagle River Holdings LLC’s 4.5 percent stake in the business in October for $2.97 a share. A $3-a-share value will serve as a benchmark for future deals, one person said.

A deal may be announced by the end of the year, though talks could still fall through, according to the people. The discussions follow remarks by Sprint chief executive officer Dan Hesse in October that buying out more investors in Clearwire was under consideration. Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier, is getting an influx of cash from Japan’s Softbank Corp., which agreed to buy 70 percent of Sprint for about $20 billion.

“Anytime there’s an opportunity at the right price to take out a strategic investor, we will,” Hesse said in an interview after the Softbank deal was announced in October.

Scott Sloat, a spokesman for Sprint, declined to comment on speculation, as did Mike DiGioia, a spokesman for Clearwire, which is based in Bellevue, Wash.