More news has surface on the Sprint-Softbank front. Softbank is reducing its stake in the carrier eAccess by offering new shares to 11 companies, including Samsung and Nokia Siemens units. The move will reduce Softbank’s voting rights in the company to 33.29%.
Softbank acquired eAccess to add more bandwidth and gain access to the carrier’s LTE network in order to meet demand from iPhone users. The decision to reduce its stake in eAccess is likely motivated by Softbank’s pending acquisition of Sprint. Regulators have expressed concern over Softbank controlling too much of the spectrum and the company is likely letting eAccess go in order to help land the larger fish that is Sprint.
However, the Softbank-Sprint deal is far from a sure thing. The acquisition was complicated by Sprint’s agreement to purchase the remaining shares of Clearwire, a move which was met by a counter offer from Dish. Now, Dish has asked the Federal Communications Commission to hit pause on the clock for reviewing the deal. The clock is an informal countdown by the FCC to complete reviews within 180 days. With 48 days on the clock for the Softbank-Sprint deal, Dish is asking for more time so that its competing bid for Clearwire can be properly considered.
Sprint, which owns a majority of Clearwire, has insisted that the Dish deal won’t happen. Still, Sprint needs the support of a majority of the remaining shareholders, several of which have complained that Sprint’s offer undervalues Clearwire. Whether the FCC decides to halt the clock or not, it’ll be interesting to see how the increasingly complex Softbank-Sprint-Clearwire-Dish saga ends.