Sprint-Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S), the No. 3 U.S. telecommunications carrier, said it plans to acquire $480 million worth of valuable long-term evolution (LTE) spectrum in the Midwest.
The Overland Park, Kan., carrier announced plans to buy the assets from U.S. Cellular Corp. (NYSE: USM), its smaller Chicago-based rival.
The goal is to bolster Sprint's LTE network to battle bigger AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Corp. (NYSE: VZ), now that Japan's SoftBank Corp. (Tokyo: 9984) has agreed to acquire a 70 percent stake for about $20.1 billion.
Last month, Sprint sold $3.1 billion in convertible bonds to SoftBank, which allows it to buy smaller assets and expand its network. Sprint also reported a third-quarter net loss of $767 million, or 26 cents a share, far below analyst estimates. Revenue rose 5 percent to $8.76 billion.
Besides acquiring 585,000 U.S. Cellular customers to its current 56 million subscribers, Sprint also will obtain 20 MHZ of PCS spectrum in Chicago, Champaign, Ill., and South Bend, Ind., as well as 10 MHZ of PCS spectrum around St. Louis.
The deal requires regulatory approval and is expected to close by mid-2013, the companies said.
Meanwhile, shares of Leap Wireless International Corp. (Nasdaq: LEAP), of San Diego, which many analysts speculated would be a takeover target of either Sprint or Deutsche Telekom (Pink: DTEGY), plunged more than 8 percent after it announced third-quarter net of $26.9 million, or 32 cents a share, reversing a prior-year loss of $94.1 million, or 96 cents a share.
Leap Wireless, which operates the Cricket Wireless service, reported having about 5.6 million customers.
Shares of Sprint fell 7 cents to $5.66, while those of U.S. Cellular fell $2.37 to $36.65.