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Sprint Dilutes Stake in Clearwire

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On Tuesday, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) revealed that it is no longer the majority shareholder of Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR), as Sprint now owns less than 50% of the company. Despite this, Sprint remains the largest shareholder.

Sprint and Clearwire have been working together to develop a 4G network. Both companies have stated that their working relationship will not change as a result of the news.

As of Tuesday morning, Sprint was unable to confirm the exact amount of the current stake, due to the fact that the Clearwire equity offering is ongoing. Sprint's holding is understood to be less than the 51% stake required for a majority. In fact, Sprint declined to buy CLWR stakes in the last round, although it will look at its options again as opportunities arise.

Clearwire has been struggling for some time now, and Sprint has been trying to distance itself. This time last year, Sprint reduced its voting stake in CLWR so that Clearwire could not adversely affect Sprint's debt. Sprint let go of its Class B shares (not publically traded), which reduced its voting stake to 49.9% from 54%.

However, it has just paid roughly $8 million to reclaim those shares, with CLWR desperately selling shares in order to raise some capital.

Though it is no longer the majority shareholder with less than 50%, Sprint will continue to hold onto 7 of the 13 seats on the Clearwire board. Whether that arrangement will prove to be awkward or not remains to be seen.

Still, the companies must continue to work together. Clearwire signed a network parternship with Sprint at the end of 2011.

The partnership is bearing fruit, as Sprint is building the aforementioned 4G network on LTE, a standard currently used by Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T).

Early on Tuesday, Clearwire is trading at $1.19, while Sprint is down nearly 5% around $2.80.

Follow me @BCallwood.

Posted-In: News Management Tech Best of Benzinga


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