Sprint Q3 2010 finances out: subscribers up but still $911m net loss

Chris Davies - Oct 27, 2010
Sprint Q3 2010 finances out: subscribers up but still $911m net loss

Sprint is the latest US carrier to report its Q3 2010 financial results, and while they still lag behind Verizon and AT&T in terms of sheer numbers, it’s a solid quarter for the CDMA network.  That’s solid in terms of previous years, of course; Sprint still managed a net loss of $911m on net operating revenues of almost $8.2 billion, but at least they added 644,000 subscribers (the biggest number since 2006).

Meanwhile churn is down, year-on-year, and net revenue up 4-percent compared to Q3 2009.  Altogether they’ve ended the quarter with 48.8m customers (33.1m of which are postpaid, 11.6m prepaid), while postpaid ARPU (average monthly revenue per user) fell a dollar from 2009 to $55, and prepaid ARPU fell $7 to $28 from 2009 (which Sprint blames on the inclusion of lower-spending Virgin Mobile and Assurance Wireless customers).  It’s enough for Sprint to predict growth across all their subscriber categories in Q4 2010.

Press Release:

Sprint Nextel Reports Third Quarter 2010 Results

Achieved best total company wireless subscriber net additions since 2006, adding 644,000 total wireless subscribers

Delivered the fourth consecutive quarter of positive net postpaid subscriber growth for the Sprint brand; second best postpaid churn result ever
Achieved eleventh consecutive quarter of improvement in Customer Care Satisfaction and First Call Resolution
Grew quarterly total net operating revenues sequentially and year-over-year
Maintained strong liquidity with cash and cash equivalents balance of $4.7 billion; year-to-date Free Cash Flow* of $1.6 billion
The company’s third quarter earnings conference call will be held at 8 a.m. EDT today. Participants may dial 800-938-1120 in the U.S. or Canada (706-634-7849 internationally) and provide the following ID: 11720738, or may listen via the Internet at www.sprint.com/investor.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (BUSINESS WIRE), October 27, 2010 – Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) today reported that during the third quarter of 2010, the company achieved its best total company wireless subscriber net additions since 2006, adding 644,000 total wireless subscribers driven by positive net postpaid subscriber growth of 354,000 for the Sprint brand and the company’s best year-over-year improvement in postpaid churn in five years. Demand for smartphones like Samsung Epic 4GTM and HTC EVO™ 4G remained strong, and the company delivered postpaid churn of 1.93 percent – the best postpaid churn result Sprint has reported in the third quarter of any year.

Sprint announced third quarter consolidated net operating revenues of almost $8.2 billion, a net loss of $911 million and a diluted loss per share of 30 cents. The company generated $384 million of Free Cash Flow* in the quarter, and maintained a strong liquidity position with approximately $4.7 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the quarter.

“Driven by record customer satisfaction, and the performance of iconic devices like the EVO and Epic, Sprint’s momentum continued this quarter,” said Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO. “The Sprint brand gained postpaid customers for the fourth consecutive quarter as, for the second consecutive quarter based on porting data, more customers switched to Sprint from our competitors than switched from Sprint to our competitors. In addition, our last two quarters have been all-time bests for postpaid churn. We also saw improvement sequentially in prepaid net adds and our lowest prepaid churn in almost five years.”

Sprint continued to receive recognition, including the No. 6 spot in Newsweek’s Green Ranking and multiple awards for customer satisfaction during the quarter. Sprint won seven ATLANTIC-ACM Awards for Business Connectivity and Wireless Business Excellence. For the second year in a row, Sprint received top honors in the Nemertes 2010 Pilothouse awards for MPLS Services. And in the device category, HTC EVO™ 4G was honored with POPULAR MECHANICS’ Breakthrough Award which recognizes the innovators and products poised to change the world in the fields of technology, medicine, aviation, environmental engineering and more.

Sprint’s multi-brand prepaid strategy continued to roll out during the third quarter as the company’s new Virgin Mobile “Beyond Talk” data-centric plans and Assurance Wireless plans significantly contributed to increased gross additions. The focus on data and connectivity was also supported by a new $40 unlimited data plan for Virgin’s Broadband2Go product line. As part of the broader portfolio, Sprint also launched payLo™ by Virgin Mobile, providing value for the customer with basic communications needs with a 400 Minutes for $20/month plan. And Boost Mobile added another dimension to its unlimited offer with a $2 Daily option.

“Earlier this month at CTIA, we introduced Sprint ID, a ground-breaking innovation available on devices using the Android platform that lets customers download up to five ‘packs’ of mobile content built around customers’ interests or business needs. Recognized and respected brands like Yahoo!, HSN, Disney, ESPN, LatCel and eBay have teamed with Sprint to deliver easy navigation and simplicity in a growing ocean of mobile applications. Sprint will differentiate itself by bringing simplicity and openness to the mobile Internet,” Hesse said.

Heading into the holidays, Sprint boasts a varied and compelling device portfolio that includes more than a dozen products that offer 4G service, including phones, USB modems, mobile hotspots and routers. The popular Samsung Epic™ 4G became Sprint’s second 4G handset when it debuted in stores in September. The award-winning Samsung GalaxyTM Tab will be available to customers Nov. 14, with 3G network speeds and integrated Sprint ID. Last week, Sprint became the first wireless carrier in America to offer an embedded 3G/4G netbook and notebook, announcing the availability of Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1012) and Dell Inspiron 11z. And debuting Oct. 31, 2010, the Blackberry® StyleTM 9670 will offer an elegant flip design, full QWERTY keyboard, advanced smartphone features and new BlackBerry 6 OS.

Sprint launched 4G service in 19 new cities during the quarter, including Boston, Orlando and Nashville. Sprint 4G is now available in 55 markets. As previously announced by Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR), coverage is expected to reach up to 120 million people by the end of 2010, including a deployment in New York on Nov. 1, and in December, Sprint will launch 4G service in Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco, to name a few.

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