SK Telecom Wants Sprint? Maybe Not

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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