Exclusive: Clearwire expected to tap Sprint financing for April

Clearwire Corp plans to notify Sprint Nextel Corp on Thursday that it will tap another $80 million of financing in April as part of its deal with the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier, two people close to the matter said.

In December, Sprint offered $2.97 per share to buy the rest of Clearwire that it does not own, and provided the wireless broadband operator up to $800 million in financing that it could draw on in installments of $80 million over 10 months.

Clearwire had not tapped the financing in January or February as it said that it was still reviewing a counter offer from satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp. But Clearwire drew on the money for the first time in March while still saying it would keep talking to Dish.

Many Clearwire shareholders have said they were unhappy with the Sprint offer, which would need approval from the majority of Clearwire's minority investors. Sprint already owns almost a 51 percent stake in Clearwire.

The financing is in the form of debt that will be convertible to Clearwire shares in the event that its shareholders vote against Sprint's offer. So every installment that Clearwire accepts would further weaken its minority shareholders' clout in the future.

It is unclear if Dish, which made a counter offer for Clearwire in January for $3.30 per share, is still in deal talks with the carrier.

Spokesmen for Clearwire and Dish declined to comment, while a spokesman for Sprint was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Nadia Damouni and Sinead Carew; Editing by Ryan Woo)