Sprint’s finances aren’t in the best of shapes at the moment. With a little over $6 billion in liquid assets, the company isn’t at risk of bankruptcy. With some debts maturing and some network expansion and refarming needed to be done in order to stay competitive however, their current financial situation doesn’t afford them the freedom to invest in order to provide. In order to partially solve this problem, they’ve decided to sell some of their network equipment while continuing to use it by having the buyer lease it to them.
The buyer, in this case, is a smattering of special interest parties, bankruptcy specialists and investors, collectively known as Network LeaseCo. Sprint’s plan is, quite simply, to sell them roughly $3 billion worth of network equipment for $2.2 billion, to be paid out in staggered payments until 2018. The equipment will belong to Network LeaseCo, but will still be used by Sprint for an undisclosed period thanks to a very deeply discounted leasing program. Most of the equipment being sold off in the deal consists of the sort of things that are found at cell towers, such as dishes and control terminals. Sprint came up with this plan hand in hand with their owner, Softbank, and claims that this will make it easier to incorporate the plan into their long-term growth and corporate shifting strategies.
Along with keeping debtors off of their backs, Sprint plans to use this capital toward purchasing equipment that can help to refarm their existing spectrum holdings, such as some of those used for their largely defunct WiMax and iDEN networks, into useful and easy to deploy LTE. Given the context and time frame, the move actually makes quite a bit of sense; while rivals are bidding big on the FCC’s 600MHz incentive auction, Sprint plans to build out on the portfolio they already have, allowing them to stay competitive without having to bid at that auction while also nicely putting to work all of the unused spectrum that Sprint has lying around. The deal is set to close next week and should mature no later than January of 2018.