Summary:

The battle over Clearwire is getting more intense. Sprint has outbid Dish, and the Clearwire board is once again backing Sprint’s takeover attempt. Now the ball’s in Dish’s court.

It looked as if Sprint was going to take its fight for Clearwire to the courts, but instead it’s opted to win over the WiMAX operator with good old-fashioned cash. Sprint increased its offer to buy out Clearwire by 47 percent to $5 a share, countering Dish Network’s offer of $4.40 a share.

As you might expect, the Clearwire board is happy to let two titans of the communications industry squabble over it. After receiving Sprint’s new higher offer, the board voted to accept it, switching its allegiance back to Sprint just one week after it sided with Dish. And once again, the board is rescheduling next week’s shareholder vote, moving it to July 8 so everyone can review the new terms (and give Dish a chance to respond).

“The Clearwire board and special committee have determined that the $5.00 per share transaction with Sprint represents the best path forward for the company and is in the best interest of our unaffiliated stockholders,” Clearwire President and CEO Erik Prusch said in a statement. “The amended agreement with Sprint clearly acknowledges the significant value present in Clearwire – from our deep portfolio of wireless spectrum to the tremendous amount of progress the Clearwire team has made in improving our operations and beginning the construction of our next-generation 4G LTE network.”

It now remains to be seen whether Dish will continue the bidding war. Sprint’s offer is only 14 percent higher than Dish’s last bid and, while Sprint is seeking to buy out the half of Clearwire it doesn’t already own, Dish is willing to settle for a much smaller stake of 25 percent. Plus, Dish seems to have put all of its eggs in this one basket.

Dish was in contention to actually purchase Sprint itself, challenging Japanese operator SoftBank’s bid for the company. But after SoftBank sweetened the pot with more cash earlier this month, Dish said it was dropping out of the contest to focus its energies on Clearwire.

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