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DOJ asks FCC to delay Sprint-Softbank review

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Department of Justice is asking the Federal Communications Commission to delay its review of the $20 billion investment by Japanese cellphone company Softbank Corp. into U.S. counterpart Sprint Nextel Corp.

The department needs more time to look into national security, law enforcement and public safety issues surrounding the deal, which would give Softbank 70 percent ownership of Sprint, it said in a letter dated Monday.

The filing indicates that the department is taking a close look at aspects of the deal. Analyst Christopher King at Stifel Nicolaus said the FCC is likely to agree to the request, but it amounts to a hurdle rather than a halt to the deal.

Regulators could be looking at Softbank's relationship with Chinese equipment makers Huawei and ZTE, King said. The Chinese companies have been the subject of scrutiny in Washington because of fears that the equipment could contain "back doors" that allow access to government communications, something the companies deny.

Sprint has said it expects the Softbank deal to close this summer.