Clearwire: The race between Wimax expansion and cash burn is on

Clearwire: The race between Wimax expansion and cash burn is on

Summary: Clearwire on Thursday outlined its Wimax rollout plans for 2010 as it announced a $118 million fourth quarter net loss. The company also outlined its capital spending plan for 2009, which calls for it burning through at least half of its recently raised $3 billion in capital.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Wi-Fi
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Clearwire on Thursday outlined its Wimax rollout plans for 2010 as it announced a $118 million fourth quarter net loss. The company also outlined its capital spending plan for 2009, which calls for it burning through at least half of its recently raised $3 billion in capital. 

Clearwire's big Wimax plans were detailed in an earnings release that took more than 1,000 words just to get to the profit and loss statement. 

And there's a good reason for that stall tactic. The company lost $118 million in the fourth quarter, or 28 cents a share, on revenue of $20.5 million. For the year, Clearwire lost $432.6 million.

On a pro forma basis, which assumes Clearwire was merged with Sprint's Wimax business for all of 2008, Clearwire reckons it lost $157 million in adjusted EBITDA on revenue of $59.7 million. For the year, Clearwire had an adjusted EBITDA loss of $613.8 million on revenue of $230.6 million. Those figures aren't entirely useful either because let's face it: They are kinda made up. Clearwire lost millions even excluding the bad stuff like depreciation, taxes and amortization. 

Also see: Clearwire, WiMax face uphill battle vs. tight credit

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Financial mumbo jumbo aside, Clearwire figures it has 475,000 subscribers today. The big question is how quickly Clearwire can increase that subscriber base to be profitable someday. 

For now, Clearwire's game plan looks like this:

  • Expand mobile Wimax network to cover up to 120 million Americans in 80 markets in 2010.
  • Bring Wimax to Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Honolulu, Philadelphia, and Seattle in 2009.
  • Launch Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Houston and San Francisco area in 2010. 
  • In addition to the recent dual-mode 3G/4G wireless modem to be launched with Sprint, Clearwire plans to launch a personal hotspot that combines Wimax service (Clear service in Clearwire parlance) with Wi-Fi enabled products. 
  • Meanwhile, Clearwire is leveraging its Intel partnership to have nearly 100 mobile Wimax devices on the market by the end of 2009.

Fortunately for Clearwire, it has $3 billion in new capital to expand. The problem: Clearwire said it will spend $1.5 billion to $1.9 billion in 2009 on its buildout. The company is hoping to "manage current cash resources into 2011, although this time period can be extended as it is driven largely by the pace of expansion."

Stating the obvious, Clearwire said: "The ultimate timing of Clearwire’s network build-out will largely be driven by the company’s market by market success and the availability of additional capital."

The Wimax vs. cash burn race is underway.

Topics: Mobility, Wi-Fi

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