by Jordan Golson
As was rumored last week, Japanese carrier Softbank is purchasing 70% of Sprint for $20 billion. The deal is expected to be announced tomorrow morning, but the boards of both companies have agreed to the transaction. Softbank will buy $8 billion in shares directly from Sprint, and another $12 billion from existing stockholders at $7.30 per share, a 27% premium from Friday’s close.
The purchase is a huge one for Softbank, which is essentially making a $20 billion gamble that it success in developing LTE wireless services in its home market of Japan can be translated to the U.S. Sprint, while the third largest wireless provider in the U.S., significantly trails the two market leaders, Verizon and AT&T.
Softbank’s hope, say people familiar with its strategy, is to build on Sprint’s spectrum position, while hoping the company can further consolidate the wireless industry through acquisitions of more spectrum and other operators. The deal is expected to close in roughly six months.
This puts another major carrier in the United States in foreign hands. Verizon is 45% owned by UK carrier Vodafone, T-Mobile is owned by German-firm Deutsche Telekom, and Sprint will now be majority owned by Softbank. There are no details regarding Sprint’s branding in the US, or if Softbank will begin promoting itself within the country.
Sprint became the third of the four major U.S. carriers to offer the iPhone upon the release of the iPhone 4S in October 2011, with company executives moving to “bet the company” on the iPhone in committing to purchase more than 30 million iPhones worth $20 billion over the first four years of the partnership. The move has impacted Sprint’s financials over the short-term, but the carrier believes that the long-term effects of having the iPhone will be positive.