NEW YORK: Sprint shareholders Tuesday overwhelmingly approved SoftBank’s proposed $21.6 billion deal to take a controlling stake in the third largest US mobile carrier.
The deal, clearing one of the last major hurdles following a hard-fought acquisition battle, calls for Japanese-based wireless firm SoftBank to take a 78 percent stake in Sprint.
It was approved with 80 percent of the US firm’s outstanding voting shares, a statement said.
The merger’s completion still requires approval from the Federal Communications Commission. Sprint and SoftBank expect the merger to be consummated in early July, a Sprint statement said.
“Today is a historic day for our company,” said Sprint chief executive Dan Hesse. “The transaction with SoftBank should enhance Sprint’s long-term value and competitive position by creating a company with greater financial flexibility.”
The deal is the largest overseas acquisition ever by a Japanese firm.
SoftBank had targeted Sprint, a distant third in US wireless services after AT&T and Verizon, as a way to gain entry into the hot US telecom market. The fresh capital is expected to help Sprint compete against its larger rivals.
But the Japanese company’s efforts ran into competition from Dish Network, which forced SoftBank to increase its offer by $1.6 billion from the original $20 billion proposal. Dish last week abandoned its $25.5 billion bid to take over Sprint.
Under the proposal, Sprint stockholders will retain a 22 percent stake in New Sprint.
The SoftBank deal received clearance from US national security officials in May under the condition of the appointment of an independent member to the Sprint board of directors to serve as security director.
The director, who must be approved by US authorities, would oversee national security matters and serve as a point of contact for US agencies.
Sprint itself has also been embroiled in a takeover battle with Dish over the 50 percent stake of wireless broadband provider Clearwire that Sprint does not already own. A Clearwire shareholder vote is scheduled for July 8.
Sprint last week raised its offer for Clearwire from $3.40 per share to $5 per share. Dish has offered $4.40 per share.
The Clearwire acquisition is seen as key to efforts by Sprint and SoftBank to boost its US spectrum capacity to accommodate the surge in wireless broadband for smartphones and tablets.
Sprint shares rose 1.9 percent to $6.99 on the news.