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Dish Network to raise its Clearwire offer

NEW YORK — The Dish Network announced a plan Wednesday to raise its offer for the wireless network operator Clearwire to $4.40 a share, trumping the most recent takeover offer by the company’s majority owner, Sprint Nextel, of $3.40 a share.

Dish’s announcement came less than two days before shareholders were to vote on Sprint’s offer.

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In a letter to Clearwire’s board, Dish reiterated the superiority of its offer for the company and stressed its desire to harness Clearwire’s spectrum to its own holdings.

Dish is seizing upon continued investor dissatisfaction with Sprint’s revised bid, which came after shareholders roundly criticized previous proposals as insufficient. Sprint — with the backing of its Japanese suitor, SoftBank — sweetened its offer to head off defeat.

(That said, Sprint has struck agreements with several big shareholders that will give it a 65 percent stake in Clearwire even if its offer is rejected.)

Clearwire disclosed in a regulatory filing last week that it had not held substantive conversations with Dish in a month.

Furthermore, Sprint owns more than 50 percent of the smaller wireless company and is unlikely to sell out its holdings, since it considers Clearwire an important part of its own turnaround efforts.

Indeed, much of Dish’s attention in recent weeks appeared focused on its $25.5 billion bid for Sprint itself, hoping to wrest the bigger network company away from SoftBank. Dish has provisionally lined up about $9 billion in bank loans to support that offer and is conducting due diligence.

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