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Verizon Wants What Clearwire Has

By Evan Niu, CFA - Apr 15, 2013 at 4:51PM

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This is turning into a big spectrum mess. Verizon wants some of Clearwire's spectrum; Sprint owns the bulk of Clearwire; Softbank and DISH both want to acquire Sprint. Is there enough spectrum to go around?

There aren't a whole lot of things that Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) has that Verizon (VZ 0.80%) wants, but spectrum is certainly one of them. The Wall Street Journal reports that Big Red has offered Clearwire up to $1.5 billion to take some chunks of spectrum off its hands. Clearwire has valuable spectrum holdings in numerous key domestic markets, which Verizon could use to boost network capacity.

This is just getting messy.

Of course, Sprint Nextel (S) still owns the bulk of Clearwire. The proposed $20.1 billion deal with Japan's Softbank for a 70% stake is still on the table. DISH Network (DISH 1.36%) made an unsolicited $25.5 billion offer for Sprint just today, while DISH has been slowing building up its own spectrum holdings in preparation for entering the wireless sector. DISH outlined numerous ways that it believes its offer is superior to Softbank's.

In Clearwire's proxy statement, the company cited an anonymous "Party J" as a strategic buyer that had submitted an unsolicited offer a week ago. This unnamed buyer was interested in spectrum bands in large markets that cover roughly 5 billion MHz-POPs, an industry term that measures population covered by spectrum. Clearwire said the offer was for $1 billion to $1.5 billion, before subtracting out the present value of the leases. The WSJ's sources confirmed that Party J is indeed Verizon.

There are numerous challenges to a proposed spectrum purchase going through. Regulators are already becoming wary of how much spectrum Verizon has, with the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division recently warning the Federal Communication Commission to that effect, but Sprint would also have a say in the deal.

With two suitors chasing Sprint, the No. 3 wireless carrier has more pressing matters to attend to before worrying about Clearwire selling spectrum to its biggest competitor.

If you take carriers' public statements at face value, there's simply not even spectrum to go around.


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Verizon Communications Inc. Stock Quote
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Sprint Corporation Stock Quote
Sprint Corporation
DISH Network Corporation Stock Quote
DISH Network Corporation
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