NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint Nextel Corp. on Thursday said Japanese cellphone company Softbank Corp. is in talks about making a potential substantial investment in the U.S. company.
Sprint, the third-largest cellphone company in the U.S., said deal could be big enough to involve a "change of control" of the company. It didn't provide any other details.
The news sent Sprint shares as high as $6.04, the highest level since 2008. In midday trading, the shares were up 66 cents, or 13 percent, at $5.70.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the talks, had reported earlier that the potential deal would help Softbank expand outside of Japan. It put the value of the transaction at more than $12.8 billion.
Sprint had a market capitalization of $15 billion at Wednesday's close, implying that Softbank may not buy the whole company.
Analysts expressed surprise at the news. There has been frequent talk of Sprint buying other U.S. cellphone companies to help it turn around, but an acquisition by a Japanese company wouldn't do much to help its competitive position in the U.S.
"We would expect to see very little synergies created with such a transaction," said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher King.
Last week, media reports said Sprint's board was considering a bid for MetroPCS Communications Inc., the fifth-largest cellphone company in the U.S., to counter an offer by T-Mobile USA, which ranks as No. 4. The T-Mobile-MetroPCS deal could make the competitive situation even more difficult for Sprint, which has been losing contract-signing subscribers for years.
Shares of MetroPCS, based in Richardson, Texas, dropped 50 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $11.54 in midday trading, as investors speculated that Softbank's interest means there's less of a chance for a counterbid from Sprint.
Tokyo-based Softbank, once the underdog in Japan's telecom industry, has seen its fortunes improve ever since it started selling the iPhone in 2008. It was initially the only Japanese phone company to offer the iPhone. Rival KDDI Corp. started selling the iPhone late last year.
Meanwhile, shares of Clearwire Corp. jumped 43 cents, or 33 percent, to $1.73. Sprint owns half of the company, and investors were betting that a deal with Softbank would include a buyout of Clearwire. The company operates a wireless broadband network that Sprint resells as "Sprint 4G." Clearwire has struggled to become a viable standalone company, and it needs additional funding to upgrade its network.
The jump in Sprint shares comes on top of a powerful-runup this year. Sprint's share price has more than doubled, as investors are now more comfortable that the cost of a network revamp and the addition of the expensive iPhone to Sprint's lineup won't bankrupt the company.
Associated Press writers Michelle Chapman and Barbara Ortutay contributed to this story.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Contact Your Phone
<a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2363526,00.asp"target="_blank">PCMag</a> recommends using another phone to text your lost phone with a message offering a reward for the device, and you can always try calling it as well. If you don't have a phone handy, you can use a service like Skype, Google Voice or <a href="http://www.fonefindr.com/"target="_blank">fonefindr.com</a> to ping your phone. It can't hurt -- someone may have found your phone or maybe you'll find hear it ringing between the couch cushions.
Call Your Carrier
After you've called or texted your phone, retraced your steps, and shed a few tears in frustration over losing your precious device, you'll want to call your cellphone carrier immediately and tell them your phone has been lost or stolen. Ask them to suspend service (i.e. disable messaging and calls) on the device, because thieves could rack up thousands of dollars in international calls or app purchases. AT&T will even let you do this from your <a href="http://www.wireless.att.com/answer-center/main.jsp?t=solutionTab&solutionId=KB63935"target="_blank">account on the Web</a>.
Password Protect Your Phone
With all the messages, years of email, contacts, social networking accounts and other personal data stored on today's smartphones, we can't recommend password protecting your phone enough. Yes, it's a momentary frustration that requires you tap a few numbers every time you check your phone, but the extra security and peace of mind is worth the effort. While a thief could still wipe a password-protected device and there's always the possibility you just lost the phone for good, the alternative (going password-free) leaves not only your cellphone account but your bank, social networking, and e-mail accounts completely open. If your phone <em>was</em> stolen and you haven't locked it down, immediately change the passwords to your online accounts and alert any banks or services that you enabled on the phone.
Use Remote Protection Apps
Many remote security apps are now available for modern smartphones, and they offer everything from near real-time location tracking (often showing your phone's location on a map via a Web interface) and the ability to remote wipe your phone in case of theft to remote photo and data backup. There are many free options, and they take just a few minutes to install and set up. Your corporate BlackBerry can probably be wiped and tracked by your company's IT admins, and consumers can grab the free BlackBerry Protect from <a href="http://us.blackberry.com/apps-software/protect/"target="_blank">BlackBerry App World</a> for remote tracking and wiping. iPhone users should download the free '<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/find-my-iphone/id376101648?mt=8"target="_blank">Find My iPhone</a>' app Android users can grab the free <a href="http://preyproject.com/"target="_blank">Prey</a> app. Similarly, other third party solutions like <a href="http://www.mobiledefense.com/"target="_blank">Mobile Defense</a>, <a href="https://www.mylookout.com/"target="_blank">Lookout</a> can help secure your device.
Save Your Phone's Unique ID
Take a note of your phone's ESN, IMEI or MEID number (often found behind the battery or on the back of the iPhone near the FCC ID). This number will come in handy when reporting a lost or stolen phone to the police or to your cellphone provider.
Schedule Regular Backups
It sounds obvious, but regularly back up your device to your computer to ensure that you don't lose essentials documents, purchases, apps and photos that are stored only on your phone. Even if you're forced to wipe your cellphone or if it's lost for good, you can often restore a factory fresh replacement to the last backup you've got, complete with apps, settings and documents. Depending on how much you use your phone, we recommend backing up between once a month and once a week.