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SoftBank sweetens its Sprint pitch, offers U.S. veto power over board member: Report

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Japan-based SoftBank will allow the U.S. government to pick a member of Sprint's board if the Softbank-Sprint deal goes through.

Sprint Nextel is up for grabs, and two big companies are interested -- Dish, a U.S. company, and SoftBank, which is based in Japan. SoftBank had offered $20 billion for Sprint, and it was all but a done deal. Then, Dish offered $25 billion.

According to Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta-based tech analyst, “Sprint is now in a catbird seat.”

The Wall Street Journal reports today that SoftBank would let the U.S. government pick one member of Sprint’s board of directors if the deal goes through. 

Kagan says a Japanese company has to plead its case to many more regulators than a U.S. company, like Dish, does.

“Softbank, in order to make this deal possible, has to jump though a lot more hoops,” he says. “But they’re doing it.”

There’s growing unease among U.S. regulators about the role of foreign companies in the U.S. telecom sector -- especially companies based in Asia. The U.S. is worried about protectionism and espionage.

According to Rob Frieden, a professor of telecommunications and law at Penn State, SoftBank, by reportedly agreeing to let the U.S. government have a seat on Sprint’s board, is addressing those concerns head on.

“It comes across as very intrusive, but on the other hand, it sort of emphasizes how serious the United States government takes the matter of Chinese espionage," says Frieden.

If the SoftBank deal goes through, AT&T would be the only major wireless carrier in the U.S. not owned, at least in part, by a foreign company.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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