FCC Sets Pleading Cycle for SoftBank-Sprint Transfer

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission has established the pleading cycle for the $20 billion acquisition of Sprint by Tokyo-based telecom concern SoftBank. Petitions to deny the acquisition are due Jan. 4, 2013. Oppositions are due Jan. 22, 2013, and replies to those are due Feb. 1, 2013.

SoftBank announced its plan to take a 70 percent stake in Sprint, the third-largest voice carrier in the United States, in October. It applied for FCC approval around two weeks ago to transfer Sprint’s spectrum licenses to Softbank.

Under the agreement between the two, SoftBank has formed three new U.S. subsidiaries—Starburst I, wholly owned directly by SoftBank; Starburst II, directly and wholly owned by Starburst I; and Merger Sub, directly and wholly owned by Starburst II. The logistics of the transaction have Sprint merging with Merger Sub and emerging as the surviving entity. Starburst I would then own a 70 percent interest in Starburst II, which would have control of Sprint. Existing Sprint shareholders are to retain the remaining 30 percent of the company.

“The applicants assert that the proposed transaction will benefit consumers by promoting greater wireless competition and broadband innovation and deployment,” the FCC pleading cycle Public Notice stated. “The applicants also contend that, because SoftBank and Sprint are not competitors, and SoftBank has no attributable interests in any other U.S. wireless carriers, its acquisition of a controlling interest in Sprint will not have adverse competitive effects or other public interest harms.”

In Sprint’s latest quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, its spectrum licenses are valued at $20.6 billion. The company holds 1.9 GHz, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz licenses and others “not yet placed in service,” it states. It is also a majority shareholder in Clearwire, which has the largest spectrum portfolio in the United States with 160 MHz, according to Seeking Alpha.

The pleading cycle Docket No. is 12-343.

Also see…
“Sprint and SoftBank Talks Continue, Where Does Clearwire Stand?” from Seeking Alpha for