Shares of Clearwire jumped more than 10 percent today after CNBC reported that Sprint Nextel may try to acquire its remaining interest in the Bellevue broadband wireless provider by the end of the year. CNBC’s David Faber said that Sprint — which has agreed to be acquired by Japan’s Softbank — may attempt to acquire the 49 percent stake it doesn’t already own in Clearwire by the end of the year.
Sprint is most interested in Clearwire’s strong spectrum position, yet some investors are worried that those assets may be undervalued if they flow directly to Sprint through an acquisition. Last month, Mount Kellet Capital Management’s Jonathan Fiorello suggested that Clearwire’s unused spectrum assets could be worth anywhere from $6 billion to $9 billion — about double Clearwire’s current market value of $3.9 billion
Fiorello, whose company owns about seven percent of Clearwire, suggested that Sprint may try to buy Clearwire for a steal. He wrote:
Moreover, given Sprint’s newly solidified position as the controlling party of Clearwire, the intertwined business arrangements between the two companies and the potential conflict between the interests of Sprint and those of the public stockholders of Clearwire, we believe that any transaction between Clearwire and Sprint should be subject to a very high standard.
The relationship between Sprint and Clearwire certainly has had plenty of peaks and valleys over the years. Sprint regained its majority position in Clearwire in October when it agreed to buy shares of founder Craig McCaw. Shares of Clearwire are up about 38 percent this year.