SK Sniffing 'Round Sprint Again?

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is remaining silent on revitalized rumors that South Korean operator SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) is interested in buying -- or at least investing in -- the third largest cellular operator in the U.S.

"We're not commenting," a Sprint spokesman told Unstrung this afternoon. "We don't comment on rumors and speculation."

CNBC is quoting sources "familiar with talks" as saying that SK is in early-stage talks about a buyout and that a deal is not at all guaranteed.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has reported that SK just wants a minority investment in Sprint, part of a potential deal to jointly develop handsets and services.

This isn't the first time that rumors have linked SK to Sprint. Sprint was said to have rejected a $5 billion SK deal in November that would have installed former chairman Tim Donahue as CEO at the troubled operator. (See Sprint Scuttles $5B SK Bid?)

SK is frequently said to be interested in increasing its U.S. presence. So far, however, most of its money has gone towards bailing out the mobile virtual network operator, Helio Inc. (See iPhone 1.1.1. Hacked: 'Preliminary' Jailbreak Works and Helio, Goodbye.)

An SK partnership with (or takeover of) Sprint could throw an interesting light on Sprint's proposed Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) nationwide WiMax deal. SK is one of the few operators in the world that actually has experience at running a mobile WiMax network. The operator started its WiBro deployment in South Korea in 2006. (See Samsung's New Support for WiBro and Carriers Look to Define the Future.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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