Clearwire plays it cool, weighs both Sprint, Dish deals

Despite receiving a higher bid from Dish Network(s dish), Clearwire(s clwr) is moving forward on Sprint’s(s s) $2.2 billion acquisition offer. Clearwire filed a proxy statement on Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicating that it still recommends the Sprint deal to stockholders, but it also left itself just enough wiggle room to keep Dish’s offer on the table.
When Sprint made its bid in December to buy up the remaining shares of Clearwire it didn’t already own, it also agreed to extend $800 million in financing to the hobbled WiMAX carrier. Clearwire could have started withdrawing those funds in January. But when Dish submitted its counterbid it clearly stated that if Clearwire took that money from Sprint, the satellite TV provider would take its offer and skedaddle.
Clearwire didn’t dip into the Sprint financing in January while it was reviewing Dish’s offer. On Friday, Clearwire revealed it wouldn’t tap those funds in February either, which would keep Dish at the table and allow it to continue negotiating. The filing also reveals that since 2010 Clearwire has held negotiations with at least nine other entities over possible spectrum sales, strategic partnerships or outright acquisitions.
Though Clearwire hasn’t eliminated Dish from consideration, Sprint said the recommendation in the proxy statement was a clear vindication of Sprint and the substance of its offer. From Sprint’s statement:

“We continue to believe that the DISH proposal is illusory and conditioned on many things, including the receipt of governance rights, a spectrum sale and a commercial agreement which are not actionable under our merger agreement and other agreements between Clearwire and Sprint. We are pleased the Clearwire Board continues to recommend approval of our transaction and look forward to closing our merger and delivering even greater wireless service to the American consumer.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user Gary Paul Lewis