Clearwire plans to raise $1.1B in debt offering

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) said it expects to raise over $1.1 billion through new debt offerings, a move that offsets its urgent need for new funding as it continues to build its mobile WiMAX network.

Clearwire’s Clear Modem with WiFi

Clearwire said the new debt will come in three separate offerings: one offer of $175 million in first-priority senior secured notes due in 2015, $500 million of second-priority secured notes due in 2017, and $500 million of exchangeable notes due in 2040. Analysts have said that the company likely will need billions more to continue building its network over the next few years.

"This solution appears to be the least attractive of the many that we have considered," wrote TownHall Investment Research in a note explaining its decision to lower its rating on Clearwire from Buy to Avoid. "With a maximum of less than $2 billion anticipated in this raise, the company remains well short of its longer term funding needs and will likely have to further curtail some of its 2011 build-out plans. Additionally, we believe this approach represents a funding of last resort after the company has been unable to piece together a non-public financing that might have included T-Mobile as a new partner and distributor. With this funding, the company may have done little about investor long-term funding concerns, other than to kick the can down the road."

The company announced a series of measures last month to conserve cash as it searched for new funding options. Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow said at the time that the company was considering a range of funding options, including new equity funding from existing shareholders as well as non-strategic investors; debt-based financing; or selling spectrum that the company does not need.

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which holds a 54 percent stake in Clearwire, has said it is in negotiations with Clearwire over funding, but has given no indication that more equity financing will be forthcoming. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse stopped short in November of promising more funding, though he did say that Sprint has "historically injected more cash into the company."

In other Clearwire news, the company said Sprint nominated William Blessing, Mufit Cinali and Hossein Eslambolchi for the three open seats on Clearwire's board. Blessing is a consultant to Burns & McDonnell where he advises clients on smart grid and telecommunications strategy; Cinali is a managing director with Springwell Capital Partners; and Eslambolchi is a technical advisor to Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and the University of California School of Engineering.

In late September, Hesse, Steve Elfman, Sprint's president of network operations and wholesale, and Keith Cowan, Sprints president of strategy and corporate initiatives, resigned from the board. Clearwire said the changes were made out of an "abundance of caution to address questions raised by Clearwire regarding new developments in antitrust law."

Clearwire also launched a new modem, the "Clear Modem with WiFi," that supports both WiFi and the company's WiMAX service. The modem will retail for $120.

For more:
- see this funding release
- see this board appointment release
- see this modem release
- see this Reuters article
- see this ZDNet article

Related Articles:
Hesse attempts to dispel concerns over Clearwire's future
Clearwire cuts workforce, delays retail launches amid funding uncertainty
Report: Clearwire hopes to raise $5B by auctioning 40 MHz of spectrum
Three Sprint execs resign from Clearwire's board

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