Leap Wireless Shares Popped: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of wireless service provider Leap Wireless (NAS: LEAP) rang up gains today, rising as much as 11% in intraday trading after the company reported fourth-quarter results.

So what: OK, so the parent of the Cricket wireless brand is still losing money. The good news, however, is that it not only lost less money, it also -- and here's the important part -- lost less money than expected. For the final quarter of the year, Leap reported a loss per share of $1.10, down sharply from a $3.28-per-share loss in the same quarter last year. Wall Street analysts had been expecting the company to lose $1.11. On the other hand, revenue was lighter than anticipated, as growth of 8% to $767 million lagged behind analysts' average estimate of $808 million.

Now what: The performance for the fourth quarter was driven by continued growth throughout the company. End-of-quarter customers grew 7.5% from 2011, to 5.9 million, as churn fell slightly and the average revenue per user climbed 10%. Looking ahead, the company noted that it's pushing forward in a number of directions, including the introduction of new phones and devices and starting up its first 4G services.

With a solid history of losses, heavy build-out costs that gobble up cash, and brutal competition, I can't say that Leap is an investment opportunity that grabs me, but this past quarter was definitely worthy of some investor cheering.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorMatt Koppenhefferdoes not have a financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting hisCAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter@KoppTheFoolorFacebook.Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool'sdisclosure policyprefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.

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