FCC approves Sprint’s merger plans

Sprint Nextel Corp. won final government approval Friday for its plans to combine with Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp. and acquire Clearwire Corp.

Unanimous approval from the Federal Communications Commission caps multiple Washington reviews that weighed not only the companies’ business plans but also national security concerns and principal foreign ownership of America’s No. 3 wireless carrier.

Acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a statement that the deals will serve the public interest. SoftBank’s investment in Sprint will enhance competition and promote “consumer choice, innovation and lower prices,” she said.

The companies expect to complete their transactions next week after Clearwire shareholders vote Monday on Sprint’s offer to buy the nearly half of Clearwire it doesn’t already own. Sprint shareholders voted last month to sell 78 percent of the Overland Park-based company to SoftBank for $21.6 billion.

Combining efforts, the companies say, will make Sprint a stronger rival to Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement that the companies’ plans are good for wireless consumers “who stand to benefit from an invigorated company better able to deliver advanced wireless products and services.”

In a statement, Sprint chief executive Dan Hesse noted that the FCC approval followed Washington’s earlier decision to not let AT&T acquire T-Mobile, a move that he said would leave the industry in the hands of a “duopoly” in Verizon and AT&T.

Sprint shares fell 3 cents Friday and closed at $7.16.