Apparently realizing that its bid for Clearwire is looking increasingly unlikely to be accepted, Dish Network has stepped up its game with an offer to purchase Sprint directly. Dish’s proposal totals $25.5 billion, made up of $17.3 billion in cash and $8.2 billion in stock, with Sprint shareholders receiving $7 per share. The offer puts Dish in competition with SoftBank of Japan, which made a $20.1 billion bid to acquire 70% of Sprint last year.
Sprint has confirmed receipt of Dish’s offer and said its board would evaluate it, but provided no further details. This latest surprise move from Dish could be a major wrench in the works for the SoftBank-Sprint-Clearwire deal. SoftBank is currently attempting to acquire Sprint by offering cash for network upgrades, while Sprint is working on acquiring Clearwire in a $2.2 billion deal to gain additional spectrum for its 4G LTE network. That latter deal has faced opposition from Clearwire shareholders, as well as a competing bid from Dish.
It’s unclear whether Dish’s offer for Clearwire is still on the table in light of this new proposal. Dish has long been interested in finding a partner to help it use its spectrum for wireless service and reportedly previously sought to make a deal with T-Mobile before being rebuffed. For its part, Sprint is lagging behind industry leaders Verizon and AT&T and could use an infusion of fresh blood and capital to give it a boost. Of course, SoftBank probably isn’t going to let this move from Dish go unchallenged. The Japanese company has invested a lot of effort into preparing for the acquisition and is unlikely to back down without a fight.