NEW YORK (
has received a key national security clearance to continue its proposed merger with
, as the Japanese telecom seeks to outmaneuver
in a bidding war and enter the U.S. wireless market.
On Wednesday, SoftBank and Sprint said they received notice that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) had completed its investigation of their proposed $20.1 billion merger, with no unresolved national security issues remaining.
Given the notice, the companies said they expected the Department of Justice (including the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the Department of Homeland Security -- agencies involved with the national security review -- to allow the Federal Communications Commission to complete its review of the transaction.
Sprint shareholders are scheduled to vote on the company's proposed merger with SoftBank on June 12.
According to media reports, SoftBank made key concessions on removing Chinese made telecom equipment from both companies' networks in order to gain national security clearance, and also gave the U.S. the ability to veto board appointments and both companies' use of foreign vendors in their U.S. operations.
SoftBank's network contains equipment manufactured by Chinese telecom equipment companies
, raising some concerns of cyber attacks and data theft. Sprint, through its proposed acquisition of
, also will pick up Huawei-made equipment.
The national security clearance also puts to rest an argument raised by Dish as it sought to gain a groundswell of support for it's $25.5 billion proposal for Sprint.
"Without U.S. ownership and control of Sprint, SoftBank's reliance on Chinese equipment manufacturers raises significant national security concerns," Dish said on
, a Web site website it created to drum up fear of SoftBank's involvement in a Sprint merger.
Still, Dish remains in the running for Sprint, which has appointed a special committee of the company's board of directors to review the satellite TV provider's unsolicited bid. The special committee has yet to state which proposal it will support, but Sprint's Board of Directors continues to recommend its stockholders vote in favor of the transaction with SoftBank.
While CFIUS has nixed major cross-border merger efforts in the past, the committee has been keen to allow telecom mergers, particularly with U.S. allies such as Germany and now Japan.
was allowed by the committee to buy
and expand its efforts in the U.S., amid a consolidation of the wireless industry.
Sprint shares were up less than 1% in pre-market trading to $7.29, while Clearwire shares were down slightly to $3.41.
-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York.