Shareholder urges Clearwire to study alternatives to network-sharing deal with Sprint

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) shareholder Pardus Capital Management has sent Clearwire a letter urging the WiMAX operator to not rely on Sprint (NYSE:S) to steer its future but consider alternative ways to boost its share price, such as revisiting a spectrum sale.

"We find troubling some of Clearwire's recent steps which suggest to us the company is increasingly disadvantaged vis-à-vis Sprint," wrote Pardus President and CIO Karim Samii to Clearwire interim CEO John Stanton. "In short, it appears to us that other strategic options have been delayed, downplayed or ruled out, leaving Clearwire with a cash hole in its business plan and Sprint as the only game in town to fill it."

Samii said Pardus is concerned that Clearwire's heavy reliance on Sprint will turn into a network sharing deal with Sprint that could eliminate other strategic options for Clearwire, "effectively giving Sprint an exclusive on an eventual take-under of the company, to the public shareholders' disadvantage."

Sprint Nextel's new Network Vision upgrade project, which the company plans to roll out in the second half of the year, will make it possible for the company to inexpensively host other carriers' traffic on its network--including Clearwire's traffic. However, Sprint has not yet made any decisions about whether it will do so, CEO Dan Hesse said earlier this month. He also acknowledged that Sprint has been talking to Clearwire about a network-hosting deal.

Samii also called out Stanton on a comment he made during the company's first-quarter call with analysts. He said that despite interest in the company's spectrum from strategic and speculative buyers, Clearwire doesn't have to consider selling spectrum in 2011 as he believes the value of spectrum will rise.

"The market took this commentary to mean that the company would rather sell equity at depressed market prices or do another dilutive Exchange note placement (and increase Clearwire's cash interest cost above $480 million a year), despite having ready bidders for spectrum," Samii wrote.

Pardus wants Stanton to continue to lead negotiations with Sprint when it comes to a network-sharing deal but wants non-Sprint designated directors to form a negotiating committee that would consult on the negotiations. At the same time, the investment firm wants Clearwire to continue searching for other strategic alternatives to a network-sharing deal with Sprint.

"We would expect this process to provide a measure against any Sprint deal, to make certain that the economics of a Sprint deal are the best result for shareholders, and ensure that if Sprint wants to assume control of Clearwire or its assets, Sprint pays the highest and best price," Samii concluded.

For more:
- see the Pardus letter

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