Did We Just Hear Clearwire's Death Knell?
If you sold Clearwire (NAS: CLWR) shares short at their absolute peak today and then covered at the very bottom, you've collected a 41% gain. I'd have to congratulate you not only on superhuman market-reading skills, but also on your robot-like timing: The peak prices lasted less than a minute, immediately followed by the day's bottom -- and that was gone within 10 minutes.
I dare say that nobody pulled that majestic trade today. If you shorted Clearwire at Wednesday's closing prices instead, you could cash in right now for a 27% overnight profit. That's not small potatoes, and a much easier feat to perform. Over half of Clearwire's free float was shorted as of mid-July despite a 65% year-long slide leading into this second-quarter report, and even deeper discounts if you go further back in time. And for good reason, I might add.
The 4G networking provider reported 151% year-over-year revenue growth and a sequentially smaller negative EBITDA. Clearwire has 7.65 million subscribers now, mostly through its longtime partnership with largest shareholder Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) and up from just 1.6 million a year ago.
And that's where the good news ends.
Clearwire now plans to adopt the LTE high-speed wireless standard in addition to the WiMax technology it uses today. The company needs to find another $600 million to fund that expansion, on top of the $300 million it needs to complete its WiMax plans. And Sprint seems unwilling to add any funds to that pot, instead opting to ink a 15-year LTE agreement with independent LTE operator LightSquared.
That's a stab deep in Clearwire's aching heart; Telecom titans Verizon (NYS: VZ) and AT&T (NYS: T) are setting up for a final showdown, where Sprint and other minor characters hardly play a part. Abandoning your longtime next-generation strategy in favor of another upstart at this crucial crossroads is like Juliet dumping Romeo in favor of Count Paris -- or perhaps his unknown cousin.
All of this drama is evident in Clearwire's report and the ensuing conference call. Some optimistic analysts see this as a perfect opportunity to buy Clearwire and profit as the stock bounces off the bottom. Other pundits, myself included, only hear the steady beat of drums as the company marches off a cliff.
Clearwire might raise enough debt to become an LTE player, but then it'd be a small, underfunded, and very lonely one. Or it could be stuck with a WiMax technology nobody wants and Clearwire itself can hardly afford to complete. It's a lose-lose situation.
Was this report an unmitigated disaster, or a signal to load up the truck with Clearwire shares? You know where I stand, but feel free to discuss the matter in the comments box below.
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