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PreCentral: Softbank buying 70% of Sprint for $20 billion

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Softbank buying 70% of Sprint for $20 billion

Just a few days ago, Sprint confirmed they were exploring the possibility of selling a majority stake of their business to Japanese telecommunications company Softbank. While the deal hasn't yet been officially announced, Business Insider is reporting that the boards of both Softbank and Sprint have agreed on a $20 billion deal with will see Softbank acquire seventy percent of the third-place US cellular network operator.

The deal, which is expected to be announced on Monday morning and still has a a few details to be worked out, will see Sprint transferring $8 billion worth of shares directly from the company, with Softbank buying an additional $12 billion from existing shareholders. The offer stands at $7.30 a share, a healthy 27% premium over the $5.73 closing price for shares of Sprint on Friday. Additionally, Softbank will take over a $3 billion bond from Sprint, clearing the way for the carrier to complete its purchase of the remaining half of floudering 4G wholesaler Clearwire.

Clearly, Softbank is betting big on the US cellular market. They've experienced substantial success in building an LTE network in Japan, stemming from a 2006 purchase of Vodafone Japan. They'll have their work cut out for them with Sprint, however. While CEO Dan Hesse has been working for several years to right the pin drop network, Sprint's suffered massive subscriber losses to competitors AT&T and Verizon, dropping them into third place by a significant margin. Additionally, Sprint is playing catch-up with their LTE network, which is currently only available in a handful of cities. While Sprint lays claim to being the first to the market with a 4G network, their WiMAX network never particularly caught on with consumers and has fallen far behind AT&T and Verizon's LTE speeds (and the latter on coverage).

According to Business Insider's sources, Softbank hopes to "build on Sprint's spectrum position", which will be enhanced once the buyout of Clearwire is completed, though apparently Softbank is hoping to further expand Sprint's spectrum holdings through acquisitions from and of other operators (say, Metro PCS?). Pending regulatory approval, the purchase is expected to close in six months.

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