Dish's proposed acquisition of Sprint evokes questions, concerns from industry

NEW ORLEANS--Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) $25.5 billion bid for Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) has evoked questions and concerns from Sprint partners and fellow industry operators.

Speaking at the Competitive Carriers Association conference here, Lon France, executive vice president for strategy and business development at Republic Wireless, a Sprint MVNO, said that because Sprint is Republic's underlying cellular service provider he hopes the company will continue to embrace the wholesale model. "To date, wholesale has been important for Sprint. They have probably been the most embracing of the wholesale market," France said "If the new owner of Sprint is anti-wholesale that might be an issue."

For Sprint roaming partner Carolina West Wireless, Dish's potential acquisition of Sprint could impact the company's future roaming deals. "It will affect us, but we don't know how yet," said Carolina West CEO Slayton Stewart said. "Hopefully the ultimate acquirer of Sprint will be likeminded or even more amenable to partnerships with small carriers."

Yet even operators with no direct connection to Sprint say that the impact of this type of acquisition will resonate across the entire industry. "This does affect me. We all operate in the mobile ecosystem and that ecosystem either works or it doesn't," said Linda Martin, president of PC Management and executive vice president and COO of Tier 3 operator Immix Wireless, which operates in Pennsylvania. "These changes may impact Sprint's culture, its attitude to wholesale and its partners. It's hard to say what these changes will be now."

Earlier this week, Dish made an offer worth $25.5 billion to buy 68 percent of Sprint, countering Japanese operator SoftBank's $20.1 billion deal to buy 70 percent of Sprint.

Under Dish's proposed offer, Sprint shareholders would receive $7 a share, consisting of $4.76 in cash and stock representing about 32 percent of the combined company, vs. 30 percent under the SoftBank deal, according to Dish. That equates to $17.3 billion cash and $8.2 billion stock, according to Bloomberg. Dish said the total offer represents a 13 percent premium on the SoftBank deal, which Sprint and SoftBank announced in October.

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