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Dish tries to trump SoftBank with $25.5 billion Sprint bid


(Reuters) – Dish Network Corp, the No. 2 U.S. satellite television provider, offered to buy Sprint Nextel Corp for $25.5 billion in cash and stock, a move that could thwart the proposed acquisition of Sprint by Japan’s SoftBank Corp.

People walk past a Sprint store in New York

Sprint shares soared as much as 17.8 percent after the announcement to their highest level since August 2008 and slightly topped the value of the Dish bid.

Dish’s surprise bid on Monday is the latest twist in a wave of consolidation in the U.S. wireless industry. Dish had already made a counter-offer against Sprint for Clearwire Corp, the wireless company majority-owned by Sprint.

It was also the boldest step yet by Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, who has bought billions of dollars worth of wireless spectrum in the last few years and has been seeking some sort of deal to make use of the airwaves.

“This is the culmination of a lot of years of work. Whether it be the purchase of spectrum, entering auctions, the acquisition of Sling Media, all those things come together now with the merger with Sprint,” Ergen said on a conference call with analysts and reporters.

Dish said it would pay $4.76 per share in cash and about 0.05953 shares in Dish stock for each Sprint share. The offer, which works out to $7 per share, represents a premium of roughly 12 percent to Sprint’s close on Friday.

Sprint said it would evaluate the proposal but declined further comment.

Dish claimed its offer represented a premium of roughly 13 percent above SoftBank’s existing bid. Sprint shareholders would own 32 percent of the combined company under the Dish offer compared with a 30 percent ownership in the SoftBank deal.

Some analysts said the Dish offer could lead to a bidding war with SoftBank.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if both parties revised their offers. The Dish bid strikes me as superior from an operational perspective because they operate a U.S. business,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Jonathan Atkin.

Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. mobile services provider, agreed in October to sell 70 percent of its shares to SoftBank for $20.1 billion. That deal is currently being reviewed by regulators.

Sprint declined to comment on the Dish offer. SoftBank could not immediately be reached for comment on Dish’s bid. SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son is known to be as fierce a competitor as Ergen, and analysts eagerly awaited his response to the Dish offer.

Dish shares fell 5.3 percent to $35.61, while Sprint added 82 cents to $7.04 after rising as high as $7.33.

‘BETTER FINANCIAL OFFER’

The combined entity would have 63.1 million retail subscribers and $50 billion in annual revenues, Dish said in a regulatory filing.

Dish said it could offer consumers immediate benefits, like bundled pricing for video, phone and Internet, and further access to unlimited data, if it were to combine with Sprint.

Ergen also said he has not formally withdrawn Dish’s $3.30 per share offer for Clearwire, but would be willing to honor Sprint’s existing agreement to buy Clearwire for $2.97 per share. Clearwire shareholders have complained that Sprint’s offer was too low.

The play for Sprint came together in the last few months as Dish started to think through all of its alternatives to gain even more spectrum, according to a source familiar with the matter.

As much as Dish wants a wireless partner, analysts said Sprint also needs a deal to compete more effectively.

“There is a realization among the smaller players in the U.S. market that they need to merge or partner to compete against Verizon and AT&T, which are both so strong commercially and in terms of network quality,” said Kester Mann, telecoms analyst at consultancy CCS Insight.

Mann said while any deal would likely strengthen Sprint, Dish’s spectrum assets would probably help support Sprint’s pricing strategy, which includes unlimited mobile data access.

Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche said in a note that “Ergen and his team clearly bring a better financial offer” for Sprint shareholders.

But, Fritzsche wrote, Sprint management likely prefers the SoftBank offer, given the Japanese company’s deeper background in the wireless market.

READY FINANCING

Barclays is serving as financial adviser to Dish. The satellite company said it intended to fund the bid with $8.2 billion in cash from its balance sheet as well as debt financing. Earlier this month, Dish priced a debt offering of $2.3 billion, more than double what was planned.

In its letter to print’s board, Dish said it had received a “highly confident letter” from Barclays with regards to its financing. Dish said it would have to raise about $9.3 billion total in new funding, though its structure has not yet been set.

In the letter, Dish suggested its offer was more compelling than the SoftBank bid because of the synergies: $11 billion in cost savings and the creation of a national provider of video, broadband and voice services.

Analysts said they considered the offer a good strategic move on Dish’s part, albeit a potentially expensive one.

“Forget the execution, next move is there a bidding war for Sprint and how big does it go and how expensive does it get? Dish has synergies SoftBank does not (have),” said Vijay Jayant, an analyst at ISI Group.

Sprint shares were up 84 cents or 13 percent at $7.06 in late morning trade after rising as high as $7.33.

(Additional reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Sayantani Ghosh in Bangalore, Leila Abboud in Paris, Mari Saito in Tokyo and Soyoung Kim, Jennifer Saba and Nicola Leske in New York; Writing by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Roshni Menon and Jeffrey Benkoe)

(VIA. Reuters)

Startup Founder Ramona Pierson Has Survived Worse Things Than Most People Can Imagine


Everybody has a story but few are as painful and triumphant as Ramona Pierson’s.

ramona-pierson

Pierson is the CEO of a stealth startup, Pierson Labs.

She is also, quite possibly, the most inspiring tech founder in the Valley today. And that’s saying something.

Business Insider recently met with her and her cofounder Nelson Gonz├ílez at the startup’s Palo Alto headquarters.

Pierson is lucky to be alive. She’s also lucky to be walking, talking and thinking, much less be leading her second startup, developing big-data education software.

In 1984, when she was 22 years old, she went out jogging with her dog and was hit by a drunk driver. The car crushed her face, throat, heart lungs and legs. At the hospital, she fell into an 18-month coma. And then she had a heart attack.

Instead of killing her, the heart attack woke her up. She came to weighing 64 pounds, blind and unable to walk, talk, eat.

Doctors rebuilt her through more than 50 surgeries: a plastic nose, a new eye, lots of titanium used as bones and some bones taken from cadavers, too.

“Eventually, I started to look human,” she says in her stirring 2011 Ted Talk about the ordeal.

Today, she looks more than human. She looks like the attractive, fit, ex-Marine that she is. But it was a long road to recovery involving having to relearn everything.

In the marines, Pierson learned to code. Her experience lead to an interest in neuroscience so during her military service she wrote algorithms to diagnose brain injuries from the battlefield.

That lead to an interest in how people learn and a job as director of technology for Seattle Public Schools. There she created a social network for students and teachers called “The Source.”

And that lead to her first startup, SynapticMash, an education software company sold to Promethean World for $10 million in 2010.

But her injuries still plagued her. The cadaver bone in her leg randomly broke while she was running and needed to be replaced. Just last year, her toes needed to be fixed.

She became so good at living through surgeries that she actually negotiated the sale of SynapticMash from the hospital recovery room 15 minutes after an operation. She refused the pain medicine and instead popped open her laptop, hopped onto Skype and sold her company, she told Business Insider.

Despite her history, Pierson is a cheerful, hopeful, driven person with a big sense of humor and an enormous amount of charisma. A screenwriter for Moneyball is even writing screenplay about her life.
Her new company is likely to be more successful than the last one. Pierson Labs will exit stealth next month and the company already has some big customers, we’ve heard, and a partner at venture capital firm Khosla is her personal advisor.

The company is home to about 20 employees who are building a big-data platform called Declara. It’s a combo analytics/social networking platform to help teachers create more personalized lessons for students. It can also be used by enterprises for training, Gonz├ílez told us.
Plus the company is working on other interesting projects. For instance, Hall of Famer 49er’s football player Ronnie Lott is an investor, Pierson says. He wants to make football safer and is looking at Pierson’s tech for that. By attaching sensors to player’s bodies, the platform can analyze bio-mechanic data and assess injuries.

Pierson is also half of a Valley power couple. Her partner Debra Chrapaty, Zynga’s former CIO, just became CEO for Khosla-backed cloud-storage startup Nirvanix.

(VIA. Business Insider)

Justin Bieber’s 37 Million Twitter Followers 53 Percent Fake, Site Claims


The website Socialbakers claims more than half of Bieber’s Twitter-leading followers are spam accounts.

justin-bieber-acoustic-650-430

Justin Bieber continues to break Twitter milestones with his follower count, which is now over 37 million strong — but fewer than half of those are true Beliebers, the site Socialbakers claims.

The website identifies fake, spam accounts by checking for “genuine tweets,” according to the BBC, and giveaway terms such as “diet,” “make money” and “work from home.”

However, Bieber’s not the only star followed by millions of fake accounts. Per Socialbakers, Bieber accurately sits at 17.8 million, lower than Lady Gaga’s real count of 19 million; she currently has over 36 million official followers. Bieber passed Gaga as Twitter’s official most followed person in January.

Whether 17.8 or 37 million, his fans are worldwide: Bieber’s “Believe” tour continues through Europe this week. He played a sold-out show in Antwerp, Belgium, on Thursday night, his second date in the city.

(VIA. Billboard)