It looks like the Wall Street Journal was the first to report that Clearwire will draw on at least $80 million in financing from Sprint in a move that could potentially scuttle Dish Network’s bid for the network operator. The cash is part of an $800 million financing offer Sprint extended when it agreed to acquire Clearwire in December for $2.97 per share, but it marks the first draw Clearwire will accept after passing up installments in January and February.
It’s unclear how this will impact Dish’s $3.30-per-share offer for Clearwire, which had previously indicated Dish would likely drop its proposal if it accepted the Sprint funds. But Reuters notes that Clearwire said it will continue to negotiate with Dish, and Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said last week that his company would be willing to work with Sprint on a Clearwire deal.
While Dish sits on 40 Mhz of valuable spectrum, those airwaves likely aren’t enough to launch a viable nationwide service to compete with top-tier carriers. And the recent flurry of spectrum-centered acquisitions has left precious little of the stuff on the market until the Federal Communications Commission releases more of it. A three-way tie-up with Sprint and Clearwire may be Dish’s last real chance to become a player in the mobile game. The question, of course, is whether that truly is what Dish wants.