Sprint may be suffering from some indecision over its two suitors, Dish Network and SoftBank — or it could just be playing them against one another.
On Monday, the Sprint’s board announced that it has formed a special committee of independent directors to “carefully evaluate” Dish’s $25.5 billion offer to buy up the company. But it also wants to keep its original $20.1 billion deal with SoftBank deal on track — despite Dish’s attempts to put it on hold.
On Friday it asked the Federal Communications Commission to keep its official review of Sprint-Softbank going, keeping the deal on target for final approval this year. The FCC is already 140 days into its initial 180-day review, but the U.S. Department of Justice has asked the FCC to delay proceedings while its National Security division looks into foreign ownership issues.
When Dish countered SoftBank’s offer last week it asked for a suspension of the regulatory review, but Sprint said there is no reason to stop clock even as Sprint negotiates with Dish. In fact, in its FCC filing Sprint accused Dish of political maneuvering to muck up the SoftBank deal. From the letter:
“DISH wrongly suggests that it would be prudent for the Commission to derail this review while it waits until an alleged uncertainty – uncertainty that DISH itself is attempting to create by its unsolicited proposal – is resolved. DISH has this exactly backwards. The Commission has been working diligently on the pending applications, which now stand at day 140 of the Commission’s shot clock. The Commission must not be distracted by DISH’s latest maneuverings, just as it was not distracted by DISH’s original request, and, based on long-established precedent, continue the orderly processing of the applications to conclusion.”
Meanwhile, the special five-director committee will weigh whether the Dish’s bid represents, or will likely lead to, a “Superior Offer” to Softbank’s. Dish may be offering more money, but as TMF Associates analyst Tim Farrar points out, Sprint has to look at other factors besides value to determine if a Dish-Sprint tie-up is worth the trouble.
Dish may offer Sprint some strategic advantages — combining both companies’ spectrum with Sprint’s mobile network and Dish’s satellite TV service — but if SoftBank matches Dish’s offer, Sprint may figure it can buy whatever strategic advantages it needs with SoftBank’s cash.