Japan’s mobile giant Softbank mulls £7.9bn Sprint Nextel deal

US MOBILE operator Sprint Nextel said yesterday it was in talks with Softbank, the Japanese telecoms giant, over selling a majority stake to the firm in what would be the biggest ever US investment from a Japanese firm.

Sprint, the US’s third-most popular operator with around 56m subscribers, said it was negotiating with Softbank on a “substantial investment”, believed to be about 1 trillion yen (£7.9bn) for roughly two-thirds of the company. Sprint shares rose as much as 19 per cent on the news.

Shares in smaller mobile company Clearwire, which is 49 per cent owned by Sprint, jumped almost 50 per cent, on suggestions that it may be a more desirable takeover target.

The Sprint deal would mean two of the US’s four largest telecoms firms would be owned by foreign companies, with T-Mobile USA owned by German firm Deutsche Telekom. Research firm Baird yesterday highlighted that regulatory concerns may emerge from the deal, which came to light just days after a Senate committee recommended that US businesses avoid dealing with Chinese firm Huawei – which counts Softbank among its customers.

Softbank is believed to have been considering an entry into the US market for some time.

“Although there can be no assurances... such a transaction could involve a change of control of Sprint,” the US firm said.