Oct 11 - Sprint confirmed it is in talks with Japanese mobile carrier Softbank- but the chatter on Wall Street is that the real prize lies in one of Sprint's investments. Bobbi Rebell reports.
Japan's Softbank making a big play for the U.S. market- setting its sights on number three U.S. telecom Sprint- and possibly number five player Metro PCS. Sprint confirmed talks for a possible stake or sale. And Nikkei reported Softbank is in talks with MetroPCS - which is already working on a deal with T-Mobile USA- so a sweeter deal could turn into a takeover battle. If Softbank were successful in getting both companies it would be the largest ever acquisition by a Japanese firm. REPORTER BRIDGE: BOBBI REBELL, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "For Sprint- a cash infusion could be a big help. It is in the middle of an expensive upgrade, and has been considering a range of partnerships." What's driving Softbank is a desire to expand into data services in the U.S. Sprint has the largest stake-48%- in wireless data firm Clearwire which is in the process of upgrading its network to the same standard as Softbank's Jim Moorman of S&P Capital IQ: SOUNDBITE: JAMES MOORMAN, EQUITY ANALYST, S&P CAPITAL IQ (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Clearwire has a lot of spectrum in the U.S. and they are also deploying a little bit of a different technology than other carriers in the US. It;s called TDD-LTE . It's an advanced version of LTE and it's one of the technologies that a lot of Asian carriers are looking to deploy as well. So I think there might be a tie in and there could be a chipset that will allow handsets to operate in both areas so I think that might be a component that is very attractive" The timing is also favorable to Softbank-the strong yen has led to a record 642 cross border deals by Japanese companies last year. Takashi Mori is the CEO of Manhattan Global Financial, an investment firm. SOUNDBITE: TAKASHI MORI, CEO, MANHATTAN GLOBAL FINANCIAL (JAPANESE WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "Because of the strong yen, there is a great incentive to buy the Sprint Nextel now. Even though, it is number 3 in the U.S., when you look at the market value, it is very cheap." Sprint shares shot up close to 20% on the news- rising to levels not seen since the summer of 2011. Volume was the heaviest in the stock's history. Shares of Clearwire closed up 71 percent. Bobbi Rebell, Reuters.