Sprint gets waiver from Softbank, permitting discussions with Dish


Wireless service provider Sprint Nextel Corp received a waiver from SoftBank Corp on various provisions of their merger agreement permitting it to engage in discussions with Dish Network Corp.

Satellite TV service Dish made a $25.5 billion counter bid last month for Sprint against SoftBank's October agreement to pay $20.1 billion for 70 percent of the U.S. company.

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The waiver will permit Sprint and its representatives to furnish Dish with non-public information and to engage in negotiations with it regarding Dish's April 15 proposal.

SoftBank President Masayoshi Son had attacked Dish's bid, saying the satellite TV company would cripple Sprint with debt and was ill-prepared to run a wireless service.

Dish, run by billionaire founder Charlie Ergen, is working with Barclays Plc, Macquarie Group, Jefferies and the Royal Bank of Canada to help finance around $9 billion in debt needed for the offer.

Sprint said its recommendation in favor of the SoftBank agreement has not changed.

Sprint said its board of directors has not determined that the Dish proposal in fact constitutes a superior offer under the existing merger agreement, and there can be no assurance that the dish proposal will ultimately lead to a superior offer.

SoftBank said it remains committed to completing its transaction on the terms previously disclosed. The Japanese company anticipates closing the deal on July 1, 2013 or as soon as possible thereafter.

(Reporting by Chris Peters in Bangalore; Editing by Paul Tait and Stephen Coates)