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Sprint sets sights on rivals

Ready to challenge AT&T, Verizon after takeover

Sprint Nextel, whose investors backed a takeover by SoftBank on Tuesday after an eight-month fight, is now preparing to use the firepower of its soon-to-be parent company to target Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

The company stands to get about $5 billion from Tokyo-based SoftBank to help bolster its network and make acquisitions.

While Sprint would have received more cash under a previous agreement that was changed to increase the payout to investors, the long-struggling company now has the wherewithal to better challenge its larger rivals.

“Now that the drama of the battle for Sprint has ended, SoftBank can focus on building a better wireless-data network that is needed to compete with AT&T and Verizon,” said Walt Piecyk, an analyst at BTIG in New York.

Sprint, a distant third to Verizon and AT&T in the U.S. wireless market, is counting on a speedy new LTE network to win over customers and bring service to a range of devices.

For SoftBank, a Japanese carrier with global ambitions, the idea is to apply its expertise in building fourth-generation networks and use Sprint as the stepping stone to a mobile-phone empire.

The combined company will be the sixth-largest telecommunications company globally by revenue and the second-biggest among mobile Internet carriers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sprint shareholders overwhelmingly approved the $21.6 billion deal at a meeting Tuesday, with about 98 percent of the votes cast favoring the transaction.

SoftBank, which has three of the four regulatory approvals needed to do the Sprint deal, still requires a final nod from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

“Sprint will be in a stronger competitive position, with greater financial flexibility, increased scale and additional industry knowledge and perspective,” said Scott Sloat, a spokesman for Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T, declined to comment on the threat from Sprint following the merger. Brenda Raney, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sprint stock has gained 21 percent this year, lifted by the bidding war.