Summary:

Dish set its sights on two big carrier M&A deals, but now it appears to be leaving with nothing. It’s withdrawn its bids for both Clearwire and Sprint.

Dish Network is withdrawing its offer to buy up Clearwire’s outstanding shares, calling it quits Wednesday after Sprint trumped its bid. The path is clear for Sprint to buy up the half of the WiMAX operator it doesn’t already own and take control over Clearwire’s considerable spectrum holdings.

Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Sprint’s big M&A plans for the year were on the verge of collapsing. Not only had Dish outbid Sprint for Clearwire, but Dish was also threatening Japanese carrier SoftBank’s takeover of Sprint. Sprint and SoftBank, however, managed to turn the tables on Dish on both counts. SoftBank ponied up more cash for Sprint shareholders to keep its buyout plans on track, and Sprint raised its purchase price for Clearwire to $5 a share.

Dish has now withdrawn from both deals, which should clear the way for Sprint to become a foreign-owned company with the single-largest spectrum hoard in the U.S. I wouldn’t rule out entirely a last-second Hail Mary from Dish. Its chairman Charlie Ergen is nothing if not tenacious.

But at this point there is probably little Dish can do to impede either deal. Sprint’s shareholders have already overwhelming approved the SoftBank deal, and Clearwire shareholders are set to vote on July 8.

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