By Sinead Carew
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Clearwire Corp is expected to postpone its shareholder vote on Sprint Nextel Corp's offer to buy the company after Dish Network Corp made a higher counterbid, two sources familiar with the situation said on Thursday.
Clearwire shareholders were due to vote on Friday on Sprint's offer to buy Clearwire for $3.40 a share, but will postpone the meeting after Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen made a bid of $4.40 late Wednesday, according to one source, who asked not to be named because of lack of authorization to comment.
Clearwire had said it could not act on a January offer from Dish for $3.30 per share as some conditions that came with the bid went against previous agreements Clearwire had with Sprint, its majority owner.
Since Dish removed some of the conditions in its new bid, the source said Ergen appeared to have "made a serious offer that is actionable" and that the board and its special committee will have to review the proposal carefully.
"This is a much improved offer from Dish, not just the dollar amount," said the source. "He's got himself in the game now."
Clearwire was expected to postpone Friday's vote, according to a second source.
Clearwire shares rose 21.5 percent, or 75 cents, to $4.23 on Thursday morning after Ergen announced his offer and started advertising a tender offer to Clearwire shareholders.
Any purchase of Clearwire would need approval from more than 50 percent of Clearwire's majority shareholders.
Before the latest Dish offer, many shareholders had said they were unhappy with Sprint's bid for Clearwire - even after it increased the price to $3.40 per share from $2.97 per share.
"This seriously complicates Sprint's bid for Clearwire," New Street analyst Jonathan Chaplin said in a research note, adding that the offer was good news for Clearwire's minority owners.
But Chaplin also noted complications for Dish, One problem for Dish and other potential Clearwire investors is that Clearwire would need approval from Sprint in order to sell the company or accept a new investor.
Dish is also competing against SoftBank Corp to buy Sprint itself. Dish has not said how the latest offer for Clearwire affects its bid for Sprint if at all
SoftBank gained clearance to go ahead with its Sprint offer earlier this week from a key U.S. government committee but needs more approvals, including a Sprint shareholder vote.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)