Chairman Masayoshi Son
held talks with billionaires Warren Buffett
and John Malone about investing in the wireless company, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Buffett is considering an infusion of $10 billion to $20 billion, while Malone would put in additional funding, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Part of the funding would dilute the 83 per cent stake held by Son’s SoftBank Group, while the rest would put cash into the company to strengthen it, the person said.
Son, the Japanese
billionaire who controls SoftBank, held separate talks with the two men at the annual Allen & Co gathering in Sun Valley, Idaho. Sprint
shares rose as much as 5.1 per cent after the Wall Street Journal reported he was in talks with Buffett and Malone.
rose as high as $8.64 in New York.
T-Mobile US, often mentioned as a merger partner, was up as much as 1.3 per cent.
Sprint, SoftBank and Malone representatives didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment. Buffett didn’t immediately return a message left with an assistant seeking comment.
Son has been exploring a merger or other deal for the company, which has been losing money and has fallen to fourth place in the US wireless market. Sprint
has been in talks with Charter Communications, which counts Malone as its top investor, and Comcast on a potential deal to let the cable companies resell wireless services, people familiar with the matter said last month.
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has invested in the industry before. His company took a stake in Verizon Communications in 2014 and exited most of the holding late last year.
Berkshire has added to bets in telecommunications after Buffett brought on deputies Todd Combs and Ted Weschler to help pick stocks. The company’s holdings include investments in Malone ventures such as Sirius XM Holdings and Liberty Global.
Buffett has long been willing to put billions of dollars behind the bets of investors he trusts. He helped 3G Capital take over ketchup maker HJ Heinz and then merge it with Kraft Foods Group, winning preferred terms for Berkshire.
He also backed a group that bid for Yahoo!’s core assets, people familiar with the matter said last year. The consortium, which included Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, was eventually outbid by Verizon.