Sprint Beats Estimates, but Subscriber Losses Weigh on Shares

Sprint USB device
Sprint USB device

Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 earnings before markets opened this morning.

For the quarter, the telecom posted a diluted earnings per share (EPS) loss of $0.44 on revenues of $9 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported a net loss of $0.43 per share on revenues of $8.7 billion. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for a net loss of $0.46 per share and $8.92 billion in revenues.

For the full year, Sprint reported an EPS loss of $1.44 on revenues of $35.35 billion, compared with a consensus call for a net loss of $1.47 per share on revenues of $35.27 billion.

The company's CEO said:

Sprint's strong performance was fueled by record wireless service revenue on the Sprint platform due to year-over-year postpaid ARPU growth and Sprint platform net additions. As a result, quarterly Adjusted [operating income] performance improved year-over-year in spite of significant cost increases related to Network Vision and the iPhone, both of which are key investments for our business that we expect will improve the customer experience and lead to growth in the years ahead.

Sprint's postpaid wireless subscriber base grew by 401,000 in the fourth quarter, largely due to 333,000 current subscribers to the Nextel service signing up with Sprint as Nextel's "push-to-talk" network is being shut down. The company also said it sold about 2.2 Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones in the fourth quarter, of which 38% went to new subscribers. The company claims it has sold more than 4 million 4G LTE smartphones.

The bad news is that for the quarter Sprint lost 337,000 wireless customers, which was an improvement on the loss in the same quarter last year. But net additions for the full year totaled just 605,000 compared with net adds of 5.1 million in 2011.

Without providing EPS or revenue guidance, Sprint expects 2013 adjusted operating income to total $5.2 billion to $5.5 billion. In 2012, adjusted operating income totaled $4.72 billion. The consensus first quarter estimate calls for an EPS loss of $0.28 on revenues of $8.73 billion. For the full year, the EPS loss is estimated at $0.81 on revenues of $35.4 billion.

We will have to wait for the conference call for any further information on the deal with Softbank and the potential acquisition of Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR), currently being countered by an offer from Dish Network Corp. (NASDAQ: DISH).

Sprint's shares are trading down about 1% at $5.71 in the premarket this morning, in a 52-week range of $2.20 to $6.04. The consensus target price for the shares was around $6.25 before today's report.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Earnings, Telecom & Wireless Tagged: AAPL, CLWR, DISH, S