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Clearwire shareholders vote for Sprint takeover

People walk past a Sprint store in New York December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
People walk past a Sprint store in New York December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

BELLEVUE, Washington (Reuters) - Shareholders in Clearwire Corp voted on Monday to approve majority owner Sprint Nextel Corp's buyout of the rest of the company, ending a six-month battle for control of the small U.S. wireless operator.

Clearwire said holders of 82 percent of Clearwire's minority shares voted in favor of Sprint's offer to buy the more than 49 percent of Clearwire it does not already own for $5 per share.

Sprint, which is itself being bought by Japan's SoftBank Corp <9984.T>, just needed approval from a majority of the minority shares. Sprint had to raise its offer price three times to placate shareholders and fight off rival bids from satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp .

Both companies were anxious to gain control of key wireless spectrum licenses that Clearwire holds in order to support high-speed data services.

Sprint and SoftBank, which also approved the Clearwire purchase, plan to use Clearwire's spectrum to beef up Sprint's wireless network to compete better with bigger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc .

Sprint initially bid $2.90 per share for Clearwire in mid December but was forced to raise its offer as shareholders said that it was severely undervaluing the company. Dish, which has been trying to find a way to expand into wireless, also helped to jack up the price with rival bids in January and May.

"This has been a very long journey." Clearwire chairman John Stanton told the sparsely attended shareholder meeting which lasted roughly 12 minutes.

Clearwire said it expects to close the deal on July 9. SoftBank is expected to close its $21.6 billion purchase of 78 percent of Sprint the day after. It also had to raise its offer price for Sprint because of a separate battle with Dish.

Clearwire's shares traded just under the offer price at $4.995 on Nasdaq after the news.

(Reporting by Bryan Cohen in Bellevue, writing by Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Phil Berlowitz and Andrew Hay)

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