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Summary:

SK Telecom, the South Korean carrier who till now has frittered away hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get a toehold in the U.S. market, was rumored to be looking to spend a few billion to buy Sprint, in partnership with some private equity firms, […]

SK Telecom, the South Korean carrier who till now has frittered away hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get a toehold in the U.S. market, was rumored to be looking to spend a few billion to buy Sprint, in partnership with some private equity firms, according to news reports based on a CNBC claim. That rumor caused some furious activity in the shares of those two companies.

Now there are rumors that SK Telecom and Spring were looking to partner on technology. The whole thing is just too curious, and the company spokespeople for both of them are staying mum.

Sprint has about 52.8 million customers, but is having a tough time holding onto them. The company recently merged its WiMAX effort, Xohm, with Clearwire to form a new company that attracted $3.2 billion in financing from Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner and others.

SK Telecom owns 17 percent of MVNO Virgin Mobile, which recently acquired Helio at a throw-away price. SK has sunk a lot of money into Helio. Both Helio and Virgin use Sprint’s network.

And on a related note, Helio’s store in Palo Alto shut down today, after setting what must have been a new record for being devoid of customers but still opening its doors every day. Rumor has it that employees at Palo Alto startups would make bets on whether or not any customers could be spotted in the Helio store. I guess the only ones who didn’t get the memo about people not caring about Helio stores was the management.

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  1. Om,
    They have been talking for over a year. I was hoping you would provide insight into regulation – Will help if you could provide insight on the foreign ownership limits. I still hope Comcast buys Sprint. Step up to the plate, Mr. Roberts. I know you have talked to the past two and the current CEO of Sprint about a merger.Sprint uses CDMA – the most efficient user of spectrum. Qualcomm will be happy about that also. They have this little venture called – “Mediaflowusa”

  2. SK definitely knows how to run their business in Korea well, although there they own the dominant carrier. If they were to buy Sprint they would be ruthless in thinning out the ranks and bringing in ‘A’ players.

    Sprint has a complete lack of execution in their core business, probably due to its nice, but painfully dense and slow-moving middle management in Overland Park. The Nextel team in Reston used to laugh about how thick their counter-parts in OP were.

    Sprint needs new leadership and new blood, which probably means new owners. They probably need to lose CDMA on the way to GSM and Wimax.

    @Petabro – CDMA has gone the way of Beta. It was a superior technology and could have ended up dominating, were it not for Qualcomm’s greed. Someday, there will be economic studies done on whether Qualcomm would have profited more over the long run by charging less usurious fees in the early going and my guess is the answer will be they shouldn’t have been quite so greedy. That’s not to say QC didn’t produce billions in shareholder value during its reign.

  3. Nice – now Accel can do something positive with the sad Helio space downstairs in Palo Alto.

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