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Dish drops Sprint bid, to fight instead for Clearwire

Dish Network is bowing out of its bid to acquire Sprint and looking instead at broadband provider Clearwire Corp., ending what tech analyst Jeff Kagan called a "crazy" whirl of "watching a group of teenagers falling in and out of love with each other."

Dish released a statement Tuesday saying it would be "impractical" to submit a revised bid offer by the June 18 deadline set by Sprint Nextel, the nation's No. 3 cellular phone network. Instead of battling Japanese wireless company SoftBank for ownership of Sprint, the satellite TV provider now is fighting with Sprint for ownership of Clearwire, which cites Sprint as its largest shareholder.

Clearwire recommended its shareholders last week to vote against the Sprint's $3.40 per share offer and for Dish's $4.40 per share offer at the upcoming June 24 meeting. Sprint said Tuesday it was suing to stop Dish's takeover attempt, arguing that the Dish deal would violate Clearwire shareholder rights.

Sprint currently owns a 51 percent stake in Clearwire and is seeking to buy out the rest to build competitive high-speed network upgrades. Minority ownership in the satellite broadcaster would enable Dish to expand from its traditional pay-TV services into wireless.

Dish's withdrawal leaves the path for ownership of Sprint clear for SoftBank, who last week boosted their bid for 70 percent of Sprint by $1.5 billion to $21.6 billion for a 78 percent stake. Although still short of Colorado-based Dish's $25.5 billion bid, a Dish merger is seen as a riskier deal.

SoftBank first offered to buy a 70 percent stake of Sprint in October with an initial $20.1 billion bid. Dish countered in April with an unsolicited $25.5 billion offer for 100 percent ownership of Sprint, sparking a multibillion-dollar battle for control of Sprint, which lags behind AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. market.

"We look forward to the receipt of FCC and shareholders' approvals, which will allow us to close the deal in early July, and begin the hard work of building the new Sprint into a meaningful third competitor in the U.S. market," said SoftBank in a statement.

The merger will give the cash-strapped Sprint the experience and financial ability to compete with AT&T and Verizon,while giving the Japanese company a chance to expand into the U.S. market.

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