Sprint releases more LTE target cities, alters bond pact for Softbank deal

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is continuing its tack of pre-announcing cities that will eventually have LTE service, though it is refraining from providing time frames for official service introductions.

The latest batch of cities where Sprint confirmed it has begun LTE deployment includes Minneapolis/St. Paul, Oakland, Calif., McAllen/Edinburg/Mission, Texas, and Key West, Fla.

The company said Sprint customers who pick up LTE signals during the pre-launch phase "are welcome to use the network" before the official launch.

"We're committed to providing improved 3G and 4G LTE as quickly as possible and keeping our customers informed as to when and where they can experience the new network's superior performance and speed," said Sprint SVP of Network Bob Azzi.

Sprint has disclosed more than 125 cities where it is building out LTE. Sprint officially launched LTE in July when it switched on service in five major metropolitan areas--Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio--plus a handful of smaller markets nearby.

In other news, Sprint is offering bondholders $1 to alter their existing bond agreement so Tokyo-based Softbank can take over control. The payment, which covers various bonds due in 2017 through 2020, would be made on each $1,000 of Sprint debt the bondholder owns, reported the Kansas City Star.

The bond agreement must be changed for the bonds to remain outstanding. That's because the current agreement specifies that if there is a change in control of Sprint, the operator must buy back the bonds, paying 101 percent of the bonds' face value plus any unpaid interest that had accrued.

Sprint is proposing to change the agreement to make Softbank and its affiliates an exception to the existing change-of-control rule.

Softbank intends to invest $20.1 billion for a 70 percent stake in Sprint. Under the terms of the deal, $12.1 billion will be distributed to Sprint shareholders, and Softbank will pump $8 billion of new capital to Sprint. The deal is expected to significantly strengthen Sprint's hand financially to either make acquisitions or pursue its own network expansion.

Sprint is also working diligently to clean up its balance sheet. On Nov. 14, the company announced it had closed its underwritten public offering of $2.28 billion aggregate principal amount of 6 percent notes due 2022. Sprint intends to use the net proceeds from the offering to redeem all of the outstanding notes of Nextel Communications.

Joint book-running managers for the offering were Merrill Lynch; Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Barclays Capital, Citigroup Global Markets, Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman, Sachs and J.P. Morgan Securities.

For more:
- see this Sprint release and this release
- see this Kansas City Star article

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