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Sprint Shareholders Approve Merger With SoftBank - Update

Mobile phone carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) said Tuesday its shareholders have approved the merger with Japanese telecom company SoftBank Corp. (SFTBF.PK,SFTBY.PK).

The deal will see SoftBank acquiring a 78 percent stake in Sprint - the U.S.'s third largest mobile carrier - for a sweetened offer of $21.6 billion.

At a special meeting of Sprint shareholders, about 98 percent of those present, supported the deal, which is still subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission.

"The transaction with SoftBank should enhance Sprint's long-term value and competitive position by creating a company with greater financial flexibility," said Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse.

The shareholder approval is the culmination of a high-pitched battle between SoftBank and satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp. (DISH), which made a feverish but failed bid for Sprint.

In April, Dish submitted a $25.5 billion cash and stock takeover offer for Sprint, calling it superior to that of Softbank. In June, Sprint and SoftBank amended their deal that saw a sweetened cash consideration and increased certainty to Sprint shareholders, forcing Dish to retract its offer.

Under the amended agreement, SoftBank raised the cash portion of its offer to $16.64 billion, while earlier it agreed to pay around $12.1 billion in cash to Sprint shareholders and to invest $8 billion in new capital.

Sprint stockholders will have the option to elect to receive cash in the amount of $7.65 or one of New Sprint common stock for each share of Sprint common stock owned by them, subject to proration provisions.

Sprint and SoftBank expect the merger to close early July.

The new Sprint will heighten the competition in the telecom space, dominated by AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless (VZ). Sprint has added teeth, given its recent deal to acquire the remaining stake in broadband wireless operator Clearwire Corp. (CLWR). Sprint offered $5 for each Clearwire share, beating a rival offer from Dish Network.

Sprint is trading at $6.95, up 1.31%, on a volume of 64 million shares on the NYSE.

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