So Much For That: Google To Offload Its Stake In Clearwire For $47M

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As Google inches closer to completing its Motorola Mobility acquisition, it made another strategic move in its mobile plans: today it announced it would sell its 6.5 percent stake in 4G operator Clearwire, for a value of $1.60 per share, or $47 million.

The sum represents a substantial discount on the share price of Clearwire, currently trading at $2.27, and a major discount on the $500 million it originally paid for the stake in 2008.

The news was confirmed in an SEC filing from Clearwire as well as a letter from Google explaining the sale, and comes a day after it was reported that Google would put Dennis Woodside, its VP of ad sales in the Americas, in charge of Motorola once its $12.5 billion acquisition of the handset maker is completed.

Sprint and Comcast, two other shareholders in Clearwire, are understood to have first refusal on the shares.

There is no specific explanation in Google’s letter for why it is selling the shares. Clearwire, a WiMAX operator, has had a long struggle competing against bigger mobile carriers in the U.S. At first, its unique 4G selling point set it apart from the pack, but as AT&T and Verizon have launched LTE services, that WiMAX network has looked a little less new.

It has needed a number of cash injections to help build out its network nationally, which has caused a lot of tension with its largest shareholder, Sprint. It has also undergone several management changes.

Having Google involved in Clearwire seemed to hint at the search and mobile giant also having ambitions to do more in offering wireless services to consumers directly – and indeed that is an area where Google itself has tried to buy spectrum at auction in the past. Perhaps with the Motorola acquisition nearly completed, the company has decided now to focus more on devices and services rather than delivery.