FCC chairman hints SoftBank-Sprint-Clearwire deal on track for decision by May

The chairman of the FCC assessed that SoftBank-Sprint-Clearwire deal is on track for action this spring, says an analyst note.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

If all goes well, the megadeal involving Sprint, Softbank and Clearwire is on track for action by the end of May, based on a new memo from Stifel Nicolaus.

The investment banking firm update issued on Wednesday reported that Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, confirmed that review of these deals in on schedule to make a final decision by May 29, which is the deadline for the nonbinding 180-day transaction "shot clock" timeframe.

Based on Genachowski's comments to them, analysts added that they expect the FCC to approve the proposals.

The only catch might be timing. Here's more:

The chairman’s comments suggest to us that he believes the FCC will be able to decide on related license transfers between the companies by late May, though the timing could still be affected by the parallel review being conducted by the DOJ, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security. Those entities have asked the FCC not to act until they have completed their investigation of national security, law enforcement, and public safety issues raised by the deals.

For reference, Japanese cellular giant Softbank bought a 70 percent stake in Sprint for $20.1 billion last October. At the time, it was expected that the deal would close (subject to regulatory approval) by mid-2013.

At the same time, Sprint owns just more than half of Clearwire and wants to acquire the rest of the company for $2.97 per share.

But there have been a few bumps as this deal works on obtaining federal approval.

For one, Clearwire shareholders asked Sprint to bump up the bid back in January.

That was after Dish filed a note with the FCC to pause review of the Sprint-Softbank deal, assuming that Sprint would be forced to drop its bid for the rest of Clearwire's shares -- thus allowing Dish to wedge its way in instead.

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