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Clearwire plans $300 mn stock offering for LTE

Clearwire plans to raise as much as $345 million in stock transactions to help fund its LTE (Long Term Evolution) network deployment and other activities.

The U.S. WiMax carrier told the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday that it will offer $300 million of its Class A common stock and also grant the underwriters of the offering an option to buy as much as $45 million of Class A shares.

It plans to use the proceeds to deploy its planned LTE network alongside its existing WiMax infrastructure, and for network maintenance and operation and other purposes, the company said.

Clearwire also stands to bring in additional funds from Sprint Nextel, its majority owner and main wholesale partner. Sprint has agreed to exercise its rights with respect to the offering, which will allow it to purchase Class B shares in Clearwire and a wholly owned subsidiary, Clearwire Communications, in a separate private transaction.

Formed as a joint venture in 2008, Clearwire built the first national 4G network in the U.S. but now faces better-funded rivals in Verizon Wireless and AT&T, which are deploying LTE networks.

LTE has replaced WiMax as the primary choice for 4G around the world, which should inspire vendors to build more devices for the newer system. Clearwire has said it would need to raise about $600 million to build an LTE network.

The offering was announced at a relatively bright moment for Clearwire. Last Thursday, Sprint and Clearwire announced a series of deals worth as much as $1.6 billion, including payments by Sprint for use of Clearwire’s WiMax and LTE networks and a possible Sprint equity investment in Clearwire.

The companies said that if Clearwire could raise new equity of between $400 million and $700 million, Sprint would participate in the funding by investing as much as $347 million.

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