It’s your move, Charlie Ergen.
After SoftBank Corp. raised its offer for Sprint Nextel Corp. to $21.6 billion Monday, the spotlight returns to Ergen, the Dish Network Corp. chairman who made an unsuccessful $25.5 billion counterbid in April.
In endorsing SoftBank’s new bid, Sprint said Dish never made an “actionable” counterproposal. After talks broke down, Sprint asked Dish to destroy the confidential information it supplied to the company. The onus is on Ergen, a billionaire and one-time professional blackjack player, to produce a more compelling offer, said Sprint investor Leon Cooperman, head of Omega Advisors Inc. in New York.
SoftBank, the Japanese mobile-phone carrier controlled by Masayoshi Son, is now offering to pay $16.6 billion to Sprint shareholders, plus an injection of $5 billion in new capital, in return for a 78 percent stake in the U.S. company. If it wants to counter, Dish has until Tuesday to make its “best and final” proposal, Sprint said.
SoftBank — which has the backing of Sprint’s board and its second-largest investor, Paulson & Co. — plans to use the carrier to expand into North America. Ergen, meanwhile, wants to add Sprint’s wireless services to his company’s satellite-TV offerings.
SoftBank plans to acquire shares from existing Sprint investors for $7.65 apiece, up from the previous offer of $7.30, the company said in its statement. The initial bid for Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint in October was $20.1 billion for a 70 percent stake.