Friday, June 21, 2013

The Finish Line is Close for Sprint

No one expected the level of drama and the maneuverings among Sprint, Clearwire, Softbank and DISH. To be sure, the stakes were high for all parties. A poker game analogy is appropriate as this corporate soap opera has seen its share of raised bids and stare downs.

DISH with Charlie Ergen at its helm played the classical disruptor, raising the stakes on its bid on both Sprint and Clearwire. It's logical since the DISH core business is sliding and DISH has no access to any mobile opportunities (revenue).  Though DISH has its own spectrum, it doesn't have the ability to launch service on its own. With Sprint's Network Vision strategy, DISH can ride the Sprint host with lower capital expenditure than if it built a network from scratch. But Sprint has a revenue generating subscriber base and direct sales channels that DISH can tap into if it own Sprint.  However, with a deeper pocketed Softbank raising the ante, DISH needed to fold and focus on a less capital intensive deal - Clearwire.

However, Sprint "pulled a DISH" and raised its bid for Clearwire at the last minute $5/share vs $4.40.  This reversed a Clearwire board recommendation for DISH. Let's face it, money talks and with that, the activist investors were placated. After all, they were looking to maximize any bid anyway. What didn't hurt was Sprint's lawsuit against DISH and Clearwire citing the illegality of the DISH offer.   Sprint is near the finish line to realize 100% ownership of Clearwire, unless DISH "pulls another DISH." 

The real question if the Sprint-Clearwire deal makes it is what are DISH's options to get into the mobile space and monetize its spectrum? Will Sprint and DISH bury the hatchet? In my view, they have to. DISH still needs to make use of its spectrum and Sprint is the logical partner (at this moment) since Network Vision was created for spectrum hosting. Though Sprint said in the past, wholesale revenue wasn't totally baked into the Network Vision model, any wholesale money (a fleeting LightSquared) will help its return on investment. Of course DISH can court T-Mobile, but they're focusing on its own LTE buildout. Moreover, they haven't planned for spectrum hosting. We shall see.............