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FCC approves Sprint-SoftBank deal

The FCC unanimously gives the green light to SoftBank's $21.6 billion bid for Sprint Nextel as well as Sprint's purchase of Clearwire.

Marguerite Reardon/CNET
The Federal Communications Commission has given its nod of approval in regard to SoftBank's $21.6 billion bid for Sprint Nextel, the final regulatory hurdle for the acquisition.

The FCC announced Friday that it voted unanimously to approve SoftBank's buy of Sprint as well as Sprint's purchase of the rest of mobile broadband provider Clearwire.

"After thorough review, the Commission has found that the proposed SoftBank-Sprint-Clearwire transactions would serve the public interest," acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a statement. "The increased investment in Sprint's and Clearwire's networks is likely to accelerate deployment of mobile broadband services and enhance competition in the mobile marketplace, promoting customer choice, innovation, and lower prices."

Sprint shareholders last week overwhelmingly approved an offer from Japan's SoftBank to buy the company after it underwent a bidding war with Dish Network.

Sprint has been in talks with SoftBank since October, when its offer totaled $20.1 billion. But as the companies neared a shareholder vote on the deal, Dish came in with a surprise counteroffer of $25.5 billion. SoftBank countered that with a $21.6 billion offer that it claimed would offer shareholders greater cash consideration.

Dish also made an unsolicited bid to acquire Clearwire, which is majority-owned by Sprint. Sprint had announced in December that it planned to buy the remaining shares of Clearwire and combine its network and spectrum assets with its own.

"The FCC's thoughtful review and approval of these transactions represents an important step toward creating a more competitive U.S. wireless marketplace," SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement Friday. "SoftBank's investment in Sprint will bring innovation and increased customer focus, which will enable us to begin creating a true competitor in a market dominated by two companies."

Sprint's bid to buy out the portion of Clearwire that it doesn't already own will be voted on by minority shareholders on July 8. Its board of directors has reportedly urged shareholders to approve it.