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Update: Sprint has confirmed that it’s in discussions with Softbank, but notes that it may not result in a deal. Original story below.

Under pressure from its three major U.S. carrier competitors (especially after the proposed MetroPCS and T-Mobile merger), Sprint may be courting a takeover offer from Japan’s third-largest carrier Softbank.

The Japanese carrier is reportedly aiming to acquire Sprint for more than 1 trillion yen, or about $12.8 billion, reports Reuters. At the same time, Japanese newspaper Nikkei is reporting that the deal may be worth more than 1.5 trillion yen, or around $19.8 billion.

At this point, the deal looks like a total acquisition, though Softbank may just end up holding a majority stake in Sprint. Either way, it’s a big change for the third-place U.S. carrier, which has more than 56 million subscribers as of June.

Sprint practically bet the entire company to get the iPhone, reportedly spending around $20 billion to do so. That gamble helped Sprint avoid bleeding subscribers like T-Mobile, but now that the company also rapidly needs to deploy its LTE network, it could certainly use some additional capital. Sprint reported a $1.4 billion loss in its last earnings report in June, mainly due to LTE deployment.

Photo via Consumerist’s Flickr

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