Oh, what a tangled web gigantic mega-corps weave. Japanese telecom SoftBank wants to get its hands on an American wireless carrier, come Hell or high water, and they've just outbid Dish Network to do so. According to Reuters, Softbank has upped its bid from October of last year to $21.6 billion USD for 78% control of Sprint, topping its previous commitment of $20 billion for 70%. Dish Network is currently offering $25.5 billion in a mix of cash and stock for an outright sale, about 10% less on a share-by-share basis.
Dish has been playing hardball since its initial cash and stock bid in April, claiming that it intends to leverage ownership of Sprint to further expand video and Internet capabilities for both companies. Dish sees the acquisition of Sprint, or at least some major wireless carrier (they've also been trying to buy Clearwire, currently partially owned by Sprint) as essential to its long-term survival. Dish has even created a dedicated website to tell investors what a great idea the purchase is. Chairman of the Board Charlie Ergen claims that he'll consider selling Dish itself if it fails to acquire Sprint.
The raised Softbank bid has earned it the support of John Paulson and some of his fellow Sprint shareholders, without whom it would be very difficult for the deal to progress. Paulson had previously supported the Dish bid, so he's probably playing both companies off of each other to drive up the price. FCC and Committee on Foreign Investment hurdles have already been cleared. At this point, it's just a matter of who's willing to spend the money, and how much.
SoftBank is hedging its bets; rumor has it that if it should fail to purchase Sprint, the company has already made moves to acquire the US branch of T-Mobile from parent company Deutsche Telekom. In case $21.6 billion wasn't enough to convince you that they want into the US market.