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Japan's Softbank in talks to take over US carrier Sprint - report

One of Japan's largest mobile operators, Softbank, is said to be in talks to buy Sprint Nextel Corp, the third-largest cellular provider in the U.S.

Softbank reportedly seeks to purchase two-thirds of Sprint, giving it control of the company, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. The details apparently come from two people familiar with the discussions.

Softbank may spend spend more than $19 billion, or 1.5 trillion yen, according to Japan's Nikkei newspaper, which did not say where it learned the price.

A potential deal is seen as an opportunity for Softbank to enter the U.S. market by buying out a compatible carrier. Both Softbank in Japan and Sprint in the U.S. use wireless equipment made by Ericsson AB of Sweden.


Sprint inked a deal with Apple last year to begin offering the iPhone to its customers. Reports indicated the company pledged to purchase 30.5 million total iPhones over a four-year span, a commitment of nearly $20 billion that was characterized as a move that "bet the company" on Apple.

Prior to offering the iPhone, Sprint saw a massive subscriber exodus to market leaders Verizon and AT&T. The company also originally bet on WiMAX technology for its high-speed 4G data, but has since begun the switch to LTE. Apple's latest iPhone 5 offers high-speed data over LTE and is not compatible with WiMAX.

In July, Sprint revealed that the iPhone played a major part in bringing new customers to the carrier. In all, 40 percent of iPhone sales in the June quarter were to new postpaid customers.