Sources Say Sprint-MetroPCS Deal Less Likely


With Sprint Nextel and Japanese mobile operator SoftBank postponing their merger deal's formal SEC filing date by three more weeks, speculation had risen even higher that the U.S.'s third-largest mobile carrier was preparing to make a counteroffer to lure MetroPCS away from T-Mobile USA.

However, such a play is not in the offing, says Reuters, after talking to several people in position to know.

The delay in filing the Sprint-SoftBank proxy statement/prospectus, according to Reuters' sources, was because of ongoing discussions Sprint was having with Clearwire about interest payments. Sprint also had accounting questions in regard to its deal last month to acquire $480 million worth of spectrum from U.S. Cellular .

Sprint said the delay was due to the complex nature of its deal with SoftBank.

The idea of Sprint trying to spirit MetroPCS away from T-Mobile was first floated in early October by several unnamed sources talking to Bloomberg.

That was the second time in a year that Sprint and MetroPCS were named as possible partners. Last February, Sprint's board of directors shot down CEO Dan Hesse's plan to buy MetroPCS for $8 billion. Either the board wasn't crazy about the then 30% premium over MetroPCS share price, or that the deal was pursued in secret -- or both.

But that was before SoftBank came along with its offer to buy 70% of Sprint, an offer that included a much-needed influx of cash -- $8 billion worth -- and Softbank buying up $12 billion worth of existing stock. That deal made a bid for MetroPCS look more doable for Sprint.

Even if no other developments come along to shake up T-Mobile's acquisition of MetroPCS by the time it is expected to finalize the middle of next year, that combined entity would still remain the nation's No. 3 mobile carrier in terms of subscriber size.

The Sprint/SoftBank deal is also expected to be complete by mid-2013.

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