SoftBank and SprintNextel have reached an agreement with the US government aimed at protecting national security as part of the Japanese firm's $20-billion takeover bid, reports said Tuesday.
The agreement in principle "likely to be finalized in coming days, would clear the biggest regulatory hurdle facing the Japanese telecom company's proposed acquisition of the third-largest US wireless carrier," The Wall Street Journal reported online, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.
"As part of the deal, the new Sprint would have a four-member national-security committee, including a security director who would sit on the wireless carrier's board," the report said, citing these people.
"Members of the committee would be approved by the government," one told the WSJ.
There may be an announcement by the two companies as soon as Wednesday, The New York Times reported. It said the US government panel Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States made its decision just ahead of its late Tuesday deadline to do so.
Now "SoftBank faces only two major remaining hurdles. The Federal Communications Commission will soon resume reviewing the Sprint deal, a process that is expected to finish in a week or so," the Times said, citing unnamed people briefed on the process.
Sprint shareholders also need to approve the SoftBank bid, with a vote set for June 12.
A Tokyo-based spokesman for SoftBank, Japan's third-largest mobile carrier, declined to comment on the reports when contacted by AFP.
SoftBank has previously pledged to US lawmakers it would avoid using network equipment from Chinese-based Huawei, which has come under scrutiny in Congress, with one report calling the firm a security threat.
The US Department of Justice in January urged regulators to delay the $20 billion takeover until the national security ramifications had been evaluated.
Since then, a rival bid worth $25.5 billion for Sprint has emerged from satellite communications firm Dish Networks. Last week, Dish said the tie-up with SoftBank would pose national security risks.
SoftBank agreed in October to pay $20 billion for a 70 percent stake in US-based Sprint in what would be the biggest overseas acquisition by a Japanese firm.
Sprint has around 55 million US customers, roughly half the size of Verizon and AT&T.