FCC reportedly backs SoftBank’s purchase of Sprint Nextel

Sprint headquarters in Overland Park.
Sprint headquarters in Overland Park. File photo by DAVID EULITT | The Kansas City Star

SoftBank Corp.’s $21.6 billion bid for Sprint Nextel Corp. won the support it needs from the last U.S. regulatory body reviewing the transaction, people familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

Two of three members of the Federal Communications Commission have voted for the deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter hasn’t been made public. The approval also covers Sprint’s offer to buy the half of wireless operator Clearwire Corp. it doesn’t already own, the sources said.

Spokesmen for SoftBank and for Sprint declined to comment, as did Justin Cole, an FCC spokesman.

The FCC’s review of the SoftBank-Sprint deal was to determine whether the transfer of control of Sprint’s airwaves is in the public’s interest.

SoftBank won a bidding war for Sprint with Dish Network Corp., which also tried to buy a control of Clearwire, or at least a substantial stake. The rebuffed satellite provider may turn its attention to T-Mobile if it still intends to enter the wireless industry, according to Stifel Financial Corp.

Sprint shareholders approved the deal June 25. Tokyo-based SoftBank will own 78 percent of Sprint, based in Overland Park.

SoftBank, led by its billionaire founder Masayoshi Son, has pledged innovative pricing and substantial investments to improve Sprint’s high-speed network, which is playing catchup with larger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T. His proponents said SoftBank would be better able to invest in Sprint than would Dish, which would have had to take on substantial debt. And Dish, based outside Denver, was also seen as more likely to make cuts in Sprint’s workforce and presence in Kansas City if it won control of the company.

U.S. antitrust and security officials earlier cleared SoftBank’s bid. The companies gave assurances they would limit use of telecommunications gear made by Huawei Technologies Co., based in Shenzhen, China.