It appears that the fat lady is indeed warming up, and both Sprint and Clearwire shall soon be in the hands of Softbank. On the lightly attended workday of July 5, the FCC announced its unanimous approval of both Sprint’s purchase of Clearwire, and Softbank’s transaction to take control of Sprint, checking the final regulatory box.
That leaves only tomorrow’s shareholder vote at Clearwire. But with Dish dropping out and even Crest Financial on board, there isn’t really much left to vote on other than a much bigger payoff than the $2.97 per share this all started at. Let’s see, more money or self-immolation — not exactly a tough choice.
All three companies ‘anticipate that the transactions will close in early July 2013’, which would seem to mean this week unless they’re stretching the definition of ‘early’. [Update, closing is now expected Wednesday 7/10.) That will end this wireless consolidation saga at last.
It will also of course begin a new one of integration and investment aimed at becoming something more than a distant third in the US wireless market. Further decisions will be made in the coming months, e.g. about whether to fish or cut bait with the wireline division and what to do with the WiMAX infrastructure.
But the main question is a simple one. Are a pile of yen and an even bigger pile of spectrum enough to take on the fearsome AT&T/Verizon duopoly? The only thing I’m sure of is that real inroads will take a lot longer than the markets and media are going to wait before questioning the pace.
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