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Crest tries to lure Clearwire from Sprint deal

HOUSTON (AP) -- Crest Financial Ltd., the largest minority shareholder of Clearwire Corp., is offering the wireless operator $240 million in debt financing, which would free it up to consider options beyond a takeover offer from Sprint Nextel Corp.

Clearwire has received multiple bids for its business.

In December Clearwire agreed to Sprint Nextel'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.

Crest Financial said that it proposed providing Clearwire with $240 million in financing through a convertible debt facility. The debt offering would have the same interest rate and maturity date as the Sprint offer but is exchangeable at a more favorable price of $2 per share, versus Sprint's $1.50 per share.

The investment firm said the financing is superior to Sprint's offer and would provide Clearwire with enough capital to pay for the projects it has planned and give Clearwire's board more time to consider alternatives to the proposed deal with Sprint.

Crest suggested that Clearwire, among other things, consider a sale of excess spectrum to Dish.

Clearwire's main asset is its wireless spectrum — space on the airwaves — that could be used to provide high data download speeds. That is a crucial competitive factor in the wireless industry.

Clearwire said that it has received the proposal and will evaluate it to determine what, if any, action to take. Sprint Nextel declined to comment.

Clearwire shares rose 3 cents to close at $3.28.