(Reuters) Japanese mobile operator Softbank Corp said it will buy about 70 percent of Sprint Nextel Corp, the third-largest U.S. carrier, for $20.1 billion – the most a Japanese firm has spent on an overseas acquisition.
The deal, announced by Softbank’s billionaire founder and chief Masayoshi Son and Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse at a packed news conference in Tokyo on Monday, gives Softbank entry into a U.S. market that is still growing, while Japan’s market is stagnating.
It also gives Sprint the firepower to buy peers and build out its 4G network to compete in a market dominated by AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless.
Sprint owns 48 percent of Clearwire. While Softbank said no action was required, most analysts and investors see a Sprint-Clearwire tie-up as an inevitable consequence of the Softbank deal.
One way or another, analysts have long said the U.S. telecommunications industry needs to consolidate, but few looked to Japan as a catalyst.