Crest files proxy against Clearwire-Sprint deal

Crest Financial files proxy to fight urge Clearwire shareholders to reject Sprint takeover

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Crest Financial Ltd., the largest minority shareholder of Clearwire Corp., has launched a proxy fight against the company's takeover by majority shareholder Sprint Nextel Corp.

The investment firm said late Wednesday that it has filed a proxy statement that urges Clearwire shareholders to reject the deal in part because the Sprint offer of $2.97 per share cash is "inadequate."

Clearwire shares have not closed below that level since the start of January. In midday trading Thursday shares added 2 cents to $3.27.

Crest has earlier offered the wireless operator $240 million in debt financing, which would free it up to consider options beyond a takeover offer from Sprint Nextel Corp. Hedge fund Aurelius Capital Management on Monday offered another $80 million.

Kirkland, Wash.-based Clearwire has received multiple bids for its ailing business. It sells wireless broadband access directly to consumers, but its biggest customer is Sprint, which resells it as "Sprint 4G."

In December, Clearwire agreed to Sprint's $2.2 billion offer to buy the 49 percent of the company that Sprint doesn't already own. Some Clearwire shareholders were hoping the company would hold out for an even better offer and a majority of its minority shareholder approval is needed to close the deal. As part of Sprint's deal, the wireless carrier agreed to provide Clearwire with up to $800 million in financing in the form of notes that could give Sprint a bigger stake if they were converted to stock.

Satellite television operator Dish Network Corp. made a $5.15 billion bid for Clearwire in January. Dish said it would withdraw its offer if Clearwire tapped Sprint financing. Clearwire has agreed twice to access Sprint financing, but Dish has yet to withdraw its offer.

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