Sprint Shareholders Approve SoftBank Merger

Sprint Nextel shareholders have signed off on an offer from Japan's SoftBank to acquire a majority stake in the U.S. wireless carrier. The deal which is expected to be approved by U.S. regulators could bring more robust competition to the U.S. mobile market.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's business news begins with a new wireless giant.

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GREENE: Sprint Nextel, the nation's third largest wireless carrier, is about to be bought out by Japan's SoftBank. The deal was approved by Sprint shareholders yesterday.

And as NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports, this should boost competition.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Right now, Sprint is a distant third in the U.S. wireless market. But with an infusion of cash and clout from Softbank, the carrier will be able to expand its high-speed network, and, it hopes, attract new customers.

Analyst Charles Golvin of Forrester Research says consumers stand to benefit.

CHARLES GOLVIN: Today it's very different for either Sprint or T-Mobile to really compete effectively with AT&T or Verizon - who have consolidated power over the last few years. So having a strong and viable third alternative is going to result in more choice and better pricing options for consumers.

KAUFMAN: Softbank's CEO Masayoshi Son is a maverick billionaire who has made no secret of his global ambitions; he hopes to turn his company in the world largest mobile carrier.

But taking on the U.S. mobile giants won't be easy. Together Verizon and AT&T control about 65 percent of the U.S. market.

Son has vowed to let Sprint continue its unlimited data plans, and he suggests that Sprint could offer consumers something beyond the lowest prices: faster speeds for example, and new services and products.

The deal is expected to win approval from U.S. regulators and the companies hope to complete the acquisition early next month.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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