Hesse: Sprint happy with Clearwire's current structure

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) CEO Dan Hesse said the company is pleased with the way Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) is currently financially structured, and brushed off speculation that Sprint might buy the WiMAX operator in which it holds a majority stake. 

"I don't want to speculate in whether that is required, or needed, or whether that would happen," he said during an interview on CNBC, in response to speculation over whether Sprint might buy the company outright.

BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk said in a research note in early June that Sprint will likely "tender for Clearwire public stock within the next 12 months because it has leveraged its growth to Clearwire's 4G network yet it does not control the decision making at the company."

TownHall Investment Research analyst Gerard Hallaren also addressed the issue earlier this month, noting that while the concept makes sense on paper, any deal would be complicated by Sprint's weak financial position.

Sprint currently owns 56 percent of Clearwire, with Intel, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks owning much of the rest of the firm. Clearwire plans to launch 80 mobile WiMAX markets by the end of the year, and Sprint is piggybacking on those efforts with its own Sprint 4G play. Hesse said Clearwire's current setup, especially the presence of the cable operators, has distinct advantages.

"We have aligned interests, in that we share the same competitors--AT&T and Verizon," he said. "And they also will start to bundle more wireless in with their offers, and that's good for us as they compete with the video bundle. So there are a lot of things that are very positive about the way Clearwire is currently structured. Who knows what will happen long term. But there's a lot of benefits."

In other Sprint news, Hesse is traveling to Forrester Research's Customer Experience Forum in New York City to talk about the carrier's efforts to boost its brand and customer service. Out of a potential 100 points on Forrester's scale, Sprint shot up from a rating of 45 in 2009 to a rating of 60 in 2010--still the lowest of the Tier 1 U.S. operators but close to the industry average of 65.

For more:
- see this CNBC article
- see this CNet article
- see this Barron's blog post

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