Sprint Bids: Dish's Ergen Swings Back at Softbank's Son
Ergen concedes that SoftBank's Japanese heritage ultimately will not be the deciding factor in regulatory approval. Concerns about foreign ownership of U.S. spectrum have subsided through the years. Deutsche Telekom has owned T-Mobile USA for a decade. But Ergen noted that some U.S. lawmakers had questioned SoftBank's purchase of equipment from Chinese supplier Huawei, which allegedly has ties to China's government. In March, SoftBank and Sprint agreed to stop buying from Huawei.
"Spectrum is a national security issue. You want that network to be secure," Ergen says.
Despite the lingering geopolitical and operational issues, Sprint's shareholders will decide on the winning bid based on numbers, Ergen predicts.
"This is a bidding war. Committee (executives) at Sprint don't need (me) to lecture them on math," Ergen says. "That's the way capitalism works in the U.S."
Son maintains that Dish's takeover would load a combined company with as much as $50 billion in debt.
While more indebted, the combined company would have more assets in spectrum, video contracts and programming and the ability to install equipment in people's homes nationwide, Ergen argues.
Ergen, who used to be a professional poker player, is confident that Son will raise his offering price. "That was the biggest bluff of the day," says Ergen. "It's like the guy who says 'to be honest with you.' "