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The Deal: Sprint Deal Prompts New Call for FCC Timing Rules

NEW YORK ( The Deal) -- Miffed that the Federal Communications Commission missed its self-appointed deadline for completing its review of SoftBank's takeover of Sprint Nextel (S), Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai is using the occasion to renew his call for the commission to codify its largely disregarded 180-day "shot clock" for deciding whether or not to approval a deal.

The FCC approved the companies' revised merger agreement Friday -- 217 days after their initial application was submitted.

Pai, who has repeatedly criticized the FCC's nonchalant approach to adhering to the voluntary timetable, issued a statement calling on his fellow commissioners to make the six-month review period a binding deadline. Such a move "would give the parties and the public more confidence that the agency is acting with dispatch," he wrote.

SoftBank restructured its original offer on June 10 in order to give shareholders a larger cash payout. The move increased SoftBank's bid by $1.5 billion to $21.6 billion. To offset the drain on its finances SoftBank also reduced the amount it was pledging to invest in Sprint's operations in the first year following the deal from $8 billion to $5 billion.

Pai said the FCC's quick approval despite needing to review new details on the deal is proof that the agency can act quickly on merger investigations if it tries. "In under a week, the proposed order was circulated, my colleagues graciously accommodated my suggested changes, and we adopted the final order," he said. "Our prompt disposition of this matter underscores the importance of codifying the 180-day shot clock in our rules."

Despite the prompt action at the tail end of the review, Pai said he was disappointed that the overall review went 35 days beyond the shot clock's parameters.

There appears to be little appetite for addressing Pai's timing concerns among his fellow commissioners. In her own statement, Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said she was "pleased that the commission was able to act in a timely manner, voting to adopt an order within two weeks of the parties providing the commission notice of the revised terms of their transactions."
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