Sprint announces plans to acquire 100% stake in Clearwire

Sprint Clearwire Acquisition

In line with earlier reports, Sprint (S) on Monday announced plans to acquire the remaining stake it did not already own in wireless broadband wholesaler Clearwire (CLWR). Sprint’s offer came in just north of earlier reports claiming the company would bid $2.90 per share, or $2.1 billion, which would value Clearwire at $4.2 billion. Sprint’s final bid came in at $2.97 per share, or $2.2 billion, and it pushes Clearwire’s valuation to $4.5 billion plus another $5.5 billion of net debt and spectrum lease obligations. The deal is subject to regulatory approval and to shareholder approval, and is expected to close next year. Sprint’s full press release follows below.

Sprint to Acquire 100 Percent Ownership of Clearwire for $2.97 per Share

  • Transaction provides Clearwire shareholders with certain, fair and attractive value
  • Sprint uniquely positioned to leverage Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz spectrum assets
  • Transaction strengthens Sprint’s position and increases competitiveness in the U.S. wireless industry
  • Interim funding allows Clearwire to continue LTE build-out and complement Sprint’s LTE deployment

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. & BELLEVUE, Wash. (BUSINESS WIRE), December 17, 2012 – Sprint (NYSE:S) today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the approximately 50 percent stake in Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) it does not currently own for $2.97 per share, equating to a total payment to Clearwire shareholders, other than Sprint, of $2.2 billion. This transaction results in a total Clearwire enterprise value of approximately $10 billion, including net debt and spectrum lease obligations of $5.5 billion.

The transaction consideration represents a 128 percent premium to Clearwire’s closing share price the day before the Sprint-SoftBank discussions were first confirmed in the marketplace on October 11, with Clearwire speculated to be a part of that transaction; and, a 40 percent premium to the closing price the day before receipt of Sprint’s initial $2.60 per share non-binding indication of interest on November 21.

Clearwire’s spectrum, when combined with Sprint’s, will provide Sprint with an enhanced spectrum portfolio that will strengthen its position and increase competitiveness in the U.S. wireless industry. Sprint’s Network Vision architecture should allow for better strategic alignment and the full utilization and integration of Clearwire’s complementary 2.5 GHz spectrum assets, while achieving operational efficiencies and improved service for customers as the spectrum and network is migrated to LTE standards.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said, “Today’s transaction marks yet another significant step in Sprint’s improved competitive position and ability to offer customers better products, more choices and better services. Sprint is uniquely positioned to maximize the value of Clearwire’s spectrum and efficiently deploy it to increase Sprint’s network capacity. We believe this transaction, particularly when leveraged with our SoftBank relationship, is further validation of our strategy and allows Sprint to control its network destiny.”

The transaction was unanimously approved by Clearwire’s board of directors upon the unanimous recommendation of a special committee of the Clearwire board consisting of disinterested directors not appointed by Sprint. In addition, Clearwire has received commitments from Comcast Corp., Intel Corp and Bright House Networks LLC, who collectively own approximately 13 percent of Clearwire’s voting shares, to vote their shares in support of the transaction. SoftBank has provided its consent to the transaction, as required under the terms of its recently announced merger agreement with Sprint.

Clearwire CEO and President Erik Prusch said, “Our board of directors has been reviewing available strategic alternatives over the course of the last two years. In evaluating available alternatives, a special committee conducted a careful and rigorous process, and based on the committee’s recommendation, our board unanimously determined that this transaction, which delivers certain and attractive value for our shareholders, is the best path forward.”

In connection with the transaction, Clearwire and Sprint have entered into agreements that provide up to $800 million of additional financing for Clearwire in the form of exchangeable notes, which will be exchangeable under certain conditions for Clearwire common stock at $1.50 per share, subject to adjustment under certain conditions. Under the financing agreements, Sprint has agreed to purchase $80 million of exchangeable notes per month for up to ten months beginning in January, 2013, with some of the monthly purchases subject to certain funding conditions, including conditions relating to the approval of the proposed merger by Clearwire’s shareholders and a network build out plan.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals and the approval of Clearwire’s stockholders, including the approval of a majority of Clearwire stockholders not affiliated with Sprint or SoftBank. The closing of the transaction is also contingent on the consummation of Sprint’s previously announced transaction with SoftBank. The Clearwire and SoftBank transactions are expected to close mid-2013.

Citigroup Global Markets Inc. acted as financial advisor to Sprint and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and King & Spalding LLP acted as counsel to Sprint. The Raine Group acted as financial advisor to SoftBank Corp. and Morrison Foerster LLP acted as counsel to SoftBank. Evercore Partners acted as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP acted as counsel to Clearwire. Centerview Partners acted as financial advisor and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A. acted as counsel to Clearwire’s special committee. Blackstone Advisory Partners L.P. advised Clearwire on restructuring matters. Credit Suisse acted as financial advisor and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP acted as counsel to Intel.

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