Sprint Shareholders Approve Softbank Takeover Bid, Leaving FCC as Final Hurdle

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By Paul Barbagallo  


Sprint Nextel Corp. shareholders voted June 25 to accept Japan-based Softbank Corp.'s $21.6 billion takeover bid for America's third-largest wireless carrier, leaving Federal Communications Commission approval as the final hurdle for the deal.

The antitrust division of the Justice Department has already cleared the transaction, as has the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States--a powerful interagency panel chaired by the secretary of the treasury--and “Team Telecom,” an additional review body of federal agencies, including the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense.

The FCC has withheld approval while the government review of the national security implications played out, but is believed to be closed to rendering a decision; May 29 was the final day of the FCC's nonbinding, 180-day “shot clock” for completing reviews of mergers and acquisitions. Then-FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told reporters in mid-May that commission staff was still proceeding according to that timetable.

In addition to awaiting the results of other agencies' reviews, the FCC has also been forced to contend with lobbying surrounding Dish Network Corp.'s unsolicited rival offer for Sprint. Dish, which had urged the commission to defer action on the Softbank-Sprint deal to give Sprint shareholders time to decide which of the offers to accept, ended its effort to buy the company June 21.

With 98 percent of Sprint shareholders voting for the Softbank acquisition, an FCC decision could now come soon.

“Today is a historic day for our company, and I want to thank our shareholders for approving this transformative merger agreement,” Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a press statement June 25. The transaction “should enhance Sprint's long-term value and competitive position by creating a company with greater financial flexibility,” he added.

Sprint said in the statement that the companies expect the merger to close in early July.