Sprint Nextel Corp. shareholders easily approved the company’s $21.6 billion deal with SoftBank Corp. at a special meeting in Overland Park Tuesday.
About 80 percent of the shares were voted in favor of the SoftBank deal, Sprint said Tuesday morning.
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After the vote results were announced, the smattering of shareholders and Sprint employees applauded.
Their approval comes after months of deal making and bid battling. It also leaves only one hurdle for Japan’s third largest wireless company to gain 78 percent ownership of America’s No. 3 wireless carrier.
Approval from the U..S. Federal Communications Commission is expected soon and would clear the way for the companies to complete their deal.
Sprint chief executive Dan Hesse slipped into the meeting through a kitchen at the Ritz Charles event center in Overland Park and followed a script in conducting the nine-minute affair. He told shareholders the transaction would create “a stronger and better capitalized Sprint” and one that “would be better able to compete.”
At least a few shareholders were left wanting. They had hoped to hear more about the deal and why it’s good for Sprint as well as what the company plans to do going forward.
Clem Retchless, a 93-year-old Overland Park resident, said he has owned shares since Sprint was called United Telecommunications. He had hoped to find out what Sprint’s “employment policies are going to be, which I haven’t picked up.”
Although given an opportunity, no shareholders asked questions during the meeting.
SoftBank’s deal will leave Sprint a separate company with its headquarters and top managers in Kansas City and its shares on Wall Street. It also will deliver money, experience and expertise from a profitable wireless company that has managed to grow in the face of larger rivals.
By combining their interests, Sprint and SoftBank hope to be able to negotiate better deals with network equipment companies, cellphone makers and lenders. Their aim is turning Sprint into a stronger competitor for Verizon, AT and T-Mobile.
Sprint and SoftBank’s plans rely heavily on valuable wireless spectrum controlled by Clearwire Corp. Spectrum are the licensed airwaves that carry video, downloads and other data-heavy activity of smartphone customers.
Sprint has a deal to buy the roughly half of Clearwire it doesn’t already own for $5 a share. The Clearwire merger is part of the plans Sprint and SoftBnak submitted to the FCC’s review.
Clearwire shareholders vote July 8 on the merger with Sprint.