Dish trumps Sprint’s offer for Clearwire with $2.3 billion bid

MERIDAN, Col., Wed Jan 9, 2013 — Dish Network put in a bid for Clearwire Corp. on Tuesday that trumped Sprint Nextel’s $2.2 billion offer, setting the stage for a takeover battle for the wireless service provider that owns crucial mobile spectrum.

Dish’s $2.28 billion offer appeared to affirm the satellite television provider’s ambitious plan to buy its way into the wireless services industry, on which it has already spent $3 billion acquiring much-needed capacity.

Dish’s straight-talking chairman Charlie Ergen says he wants to enter the mobile broadband market, and one way of doing it is to partner with another operator. But some analysts have speculated that Ergen is amassing spectrum — an increasingly valuable commodity as use of media-consuming mobile devices such as tablets intensifies — to flip it for a handsome profit.

The success of his latest move hinges on a number of conditions, not least of which is approval by wireless carrier Sprint, the No.3 U.S. carrier that owns just over 50 percent of Clearwire and is also keen to buy up the rest of the company.

Clearwire on Tuesday made it clear that the Dish proposal of $3.30 per share — surpassing Sprint’s $2.97 offer — was only a preliminary indication of interest and subject to a number of uncertainties, conditions and approvals.

Significantly, it said it had not yet drawn on financing pledged by Sprint as part of the carrier’s acquisition agreement, to allow it to consider Dish’s proposal.