We just got done breaking down the proposed Dish-led acquisition of Sprint which is in no small part about gaining control of Clearwire's sweet, sweet spectrum. Now we're hearing that Verizon is reportedly also throwing its bid in, but not to buy any of the companies involved. Just to gut their ability to function as wireless carriers by gobbling up spectrum.
In a recent filing, Clearwire disclosed that an unidentified "Party J" offered up to $1.5b for the airwaves that it owns. According to the Wall Street Journal, Verizon is that secret party. This could throw a kink in Sprint's plans. If Sprint decides to go with SoftBank's offer, buying Clearwire is a required condition of that deal. Dish's offer has no such requirement, though the ISP does expect that the Clearwire purchase will go through, so it may reconsider if that doesn't go as planned.
Meanwhile, however, Clearwire shareholders are not entirely pleased with Sprint's buyout offer. Some think that the company is worth more than Sprint is willing to pay. Others think that instead of accepting a buyout, Clearwire should sell off some spectrum and continue to stay afloat on its own. The company is currently facing bankruptcy if it doesn't get acquired or sell off some assets, so that may be a risky move. However, an extra $1.5b must look pretty enticing, considering Sprint was only offering $2.2b for the entire company, while Dish was offering $2.4b (though the perks of the Softbank deal may lead Clearwire to prefer Sprint's offer, despite the smaller payout).
However, the bigger question is whether anyone really wants Verizon to be the buyer for Clearwire's spectrum. You may remember Big Red as the carrier that bought a lot of airwaves in a deal that's kinda shady. The company currently operates one of the two largest and fastest LTE networks in the country, a position it surely didn't get to by deciding it had plenty of wireless holdings and didn't need anymore. But spectrum is a finite resource and the less there is for other carriers to use, the harder competition will become.
What's clear is that the mobile landscape is in a bit of turmoil right now. T-Mobile and MetroPCS are on the GSM side of the camp trying to merge, while Sprint is now facing two competing offers for a buyout while itself trying to acquire Clearwire, which is in turn trying to decide whether it should sell itself to another company, or just gut its spectrum holdings for a cash infusion. Meanwhile, AT&T and Verizon continue to loom over the market as an ever-growing shadow and threat. Oh, and whether it succeeds in buying Sprint or not, we can be fairly confident that Dish is going to enter the mobile carrier game at some point, if it can just find the right company to partner with.
Get all that? Good.
Source: Wall Street Journal