Japan’s Nikkei business daily is reporting that the country’s third-place wireless carrier, SoftBank, has entered discussions to acquire more than two thirds of Sprint Nextel stock. The price is said to be over ¥1.5 trillion, or about $19.2 billion.
SoftBank has been on a string of acquisitions of late, picking up PHS operator Willcom in January of this year, and fourth-place Japanese carrier E-Mobile less than two weeks ago. Nikkei reports that SoftBank hopes to use the acquisition to expand its global business presence, and to use economies of scale to lower the price it pays for devices and networking equipment. The company is credited with turning around UK carrier Vodafone's struggling Japanese operations following its 2006 acquisition, something that could bode well for Sprint's rocky performance.
Update: Sprint has provided The Verge with a comment on the possible acquisition:
Sprint is currently engaged in discussions with Softbank regarding a potential substantial investment by Softbank in Sprint. Although there can be no assurances that these discussions will result in any transaction or on what terms any transaction may occur, such a transaction could involve a change of control of Sprint. Sprint does not intend to comment further unless and until an agreement is reached.