Report: FCC won't force Sprint, Clearwire to give up spectrum as part of mergers

Regulators at the FCC will not push Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) or Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) to divest spectrum as they review Japanese operator SoftBank's proposed acquisition of Sprint and Sprint's proposed purchase of Clearwire, according to a Reuters report.

The report, citing unnamed sources, comes as the FCC has indicated it is nearing a vote on the transactions. If Sprint and Clearwire are spared from giving up airwaves as part of an FCC approval, the action would solidify SoftBank CEO Masayoshi's Son's plans to combine Sprint's network with Clearwire's vast 2.5 GHz holdings for a high-speed wireless network. And such a move would be significant in light of the FCC's ongoing evaluation of rules on how much spectrum carriers can hold in a given market.

An FCC spokesman did not immediately have a comment.

For Sprint, FCC approval would seal months of wrangling with Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), which had hoped to derail SoftBank's acquisition of Sprint as well as Sprint's purchase of Clearwire.

On Thursday evening, FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn issued a statement in which she said SoftBank, Sprint and Clearwire had urged the FCC to approve their deals. She said she directed the FCC staff to circulate an order to Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai so that they can vote on the transactions.

FCC approval is the last remaining step in the Sprint/SoftBank transaction. Sprint shareholders approved the deal earlier this week. Clearwire shareholders are set to vote July 8 on Sprint's $5 per share offer to take control of the company, which looks likely to pass.

Earlier this month the Department of Justice, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, approved SoftBank's takeover of Sprint. In late May, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency body headed by the Treasury and charged with overseeing deals in which a foreign entity gains control of a U.S. company, also approved the deal. As part of the CFIUS approval to address security concerns, Sprint and SoftBank agreed to allow retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to sit on Sprint's board and serve as a liaison between Sprint and the government.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this AllThingsD article

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