Dish Network's month-long attempt to acquire Sprint Nextel
moved a step forward Monday after the wireless giant said it had received a waiver
of various provisions in its merger agreement with Softbank that would allow it
to conduct due diligence discussions with the satellite TV service provider.
In a statement late Monday, Sprint said the waiver will
permit the company and its representatives to furnish non-public information
concerning Sprint to Dish and to engage with Dish in discussions and
negotiations regarding its $25.5
billion proposal made on April 15. Prior to furnishing non-public
information to Dish, Sprint will enter into a confidentiality agreement with
While Sprint's board of directors has the right to terminate
its existing agreement with Softbank if it receives what it deems a superior
proposal, the board stressed in a statement that it "has not determined that
the Dish proposal in fact constitutes a Superior Offer under the existing
merger agreement, and there can be no assurance that the Dish proposal will
ultimately lead to a Superior Offer. The Sprint Board of Directors has not
changed its recommendation with respect to, and continues to support, the
company's pending transaction with SoftBank."
The board added that it will continue to evaluate the Dish
proposal and discuss the proposal with Dish and SoftBank, as appropriate.
In a statement, Dish saw the move as a positive sign.
"We look forward to engaging in full due diligence and
continued discussions with Sprint. We remain confident that this process will
confirm the superiority of our proposal, the reasoning behind our synergy
projections and our vision for a competitively superior Dish-Sprint," Dish
Chairman Charlie Ergen said in a statement.