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Report: Carrier in talks to buy Sprint

July 16, 2008

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— South Korea's SK Telecom Corp. is in talks to buy struggling U.S. wireless carrier Sprint Nextel Corp., business news channel CNBC reported Tuesday.

An agreement would be at best weeks away, CNBC said, citing people familiar with the talks.

Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint shares closed up 9 percent at $9.04.

U.S.-listed shares of SK Telecom, Korea's largest mobile-phone service operator by subscriber numbers, fell 2 percent to $20.67.

Sprint spokesman James Fisher had no comment on the report. No SK Telecom representatives were available in the early morning hours, Korean time.

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.

Walter Piecyk, an analyst with Pali Research, said on his firm's blog that it was more likely that SK Telecom was seeking to make an investment in Sprint. It is believed to have offered $5 billion last November but was ultimately rebuffed.

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