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Sprint Nextel may be target of acquisition

July 16, 2008|From Times Wire Services

SK Telecom Co., South Korea's largest mobile-phone operator, was reported Tuesday to be in talks to buy struggling Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S.

SK Telecom declined to confirm or deny the report from business news channel CNBC.

"There is nothing we can say on the report," said Ryu Mina, a spokeswoman for Seoul-based SK Telecom.

No deal is imminent and no price has been set, CNBC said, citing people familiar with the talks.

Separately, Sprint and SK Telecom are in talks to forge a partnership to develop new phones and services, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Ryu also declined to comment on the Journal report. Sprint spokesman James Fisher declined to comment.

Sprint shares rose 78 cents, or 9.4%, to $9.04. U.S.-listed shares of SK Telecom, South Korea's largest mobile-phone service operator by subscriber numbers, fell 52 cents, or 2.5% to $20.67.

CNBC reported that private equity firms would provide financing for the deal, since SK Telecom's market value is about half of Sprint's $22.6 billion.

Sprint has been losing subscribers for some time, but it still had 52.8 million subscribers at the end of March. Its stock has lost half its value in the last year, and there have been reports that the company has been talking to other possible buyers, such as T-Mobile USA.

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