Battle for Sprint heats up; rough tactics employed?

According to reports, SoftBank is using interesting measures against rival Dish Networks in the game to take over Sprint.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

In an attempt to stop Dish Networks from being successful in its bid for Sprint, SoftBank has allegedly used investment leverage in talks with banks financing Dish's offer.

According to Reuters, Japanese firm SoftBank has informed banks that if they finance satellite provider Dish's $25.5 billion counter-offer for Sprint, their chances of investing in Alibaba may be hurt.

SoftBank owns 33 percent of Alibaba Group, which includes a number of Internet-based ecommerce businesses and services. Alibaba has not released a timeline for its sought-after IPO, and a source close to the firm said that while SoftBank is a major investor, it does not have full control over the ecommerce family's management.

The Japanese telecom company has offered $20.1 billion for 70 percent of Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier. In return, Sprint will receive $8 billion in capital to invest within 4G networking infrastructure to allow it to better compete with rival companies. However, a bid by satellite provider Dish Networks of $25.5 billion -- or roughly $4.76 in cash and around $2.24 in stock for shareholders -- has made a series of acquisition bids even more convoluted.

This is where Clearwire, the seventh largest cellular network in the U.S comes in. Sprint has offered $2.1 billion, or $2.90 per share, to try and acquire the 49 percent of shares that it does not already own in the firm for its spectrum resources and subscribers. SoftBank, with 70 percent ownership of Sprint, capped the bid at $2.97 per share. Dish made a rival bid, for $3.30 per share -- $5.15 billion -- but Sprint is "severely limited by current contractual arrangements" with majority owner SoftBank.

If Dish is successful in its bid for Sprint instead, considering the fact the company owns 51 percent of Clearwire, then the balance of power will change.

If Reuters sources are correct, then financing the bid for Sprint may have just become more difficult for Dish. The sources say that at least one bank has withdrawn financing the acquisition and SoftBank's tactics are unsual, but not illegal. Barclays Plc and Jefferies Group are lined up to help with financing, and Dish is currently seeking out the assistance of other financial institutions.

Dish will need to raise $9 billion to finance the deal. Last month, SoftBank's CEO Masayoshi Son called Dish's bid for Sprint "misleading," saying that the number-crunching involved was "totally wrong," as well as "incomplete and illusory."

In addition, the executive said that Dish has "no understanding whatsoever about the real situation of Sprint," and no expertise in mobile networks to allow Sprint to expand and grow. Last week, Son renewed the verbal attack, saying that Dish and Sprint are a poor match.

"It doesn't help to bring a football player to a baseball team," the executive commented. "There's no synergy between satellite and mobile."

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