Clearwire raises $600 million in IPO

Wall Street appeared optimistic about Clearwire's plan to build WiMax networks around the globe, though company has yet to turn a profit.
Written by Marguerite Reardon, Contributor
Clearwire, the wireless broadband company started by billionaire cell phone pioneer Craig McCaw, raised $600 million in cash Thursday when it debuted on the Nasdaq.

The company's stock shot up 9 percent to $27.25 a share when the market opened Thursday, but it fell to $25.42 by midday, still a 1.68 percent gain over the $25 price tag set by its underwriters, which include Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan.

Clearwire sold 24 million shares of common stock and is trading under the ticker symbol CLWR. The company had expected its shares to price at $23 to $25 each.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to help the company expand its footprint and acquire more spectrum. The company will likely bid in the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction that the Federal Communications Commission is required to start no later than January 28, 2008.

Clearwire is using a packet technology called WiMax to build fixed wireless broadband networks and mobile wireless networks throughout the world. It has already deployed its network in 34 U.S. markets and has just under 200,000 subscribers. It also has roughly 22,000 international subscribers.

Clearwire first filed for its public offering in May 2006, hoping to raise $400 million. But it scrapped those plans after raising $900 million from Intel and Motorola. The company re-filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission in December.

The company has yet to turn a profit, reporting in its latest filings that for 2006 it lost $284 million on revenue of $100 million. Still, Wall Street has seemed optimistic about Clearwire's plans. Part of this could be because McCaw is a legend in the cellular industry, having grown Cellular Communications into the first nationwide mobile carrier in the U.S. In 1997, he sold the business to AT&T for $11.4 billion. AT&T Wireless was subsequently spun off by the old AT&T. It was later acquired by Cingular Communications, which is now owned by the new AT&T.

Still, Clearwire faces stiff competition, most notably from Sprint Nextel, which is also building a nationwide networking using WiMax.

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