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Sprint shows progress in Q2, still under construction

Sprint delivered some momentum in the second quarter, but it's unclear whether the company can fend off T-Mobile from below and make a run at much larger rivals AT&T and Verizon.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Sprint's second quarter results showed some momentum as the company added post-paid subscriptions and improved its average revenue per user. But the company's bottom line still needs to improve if it wants to compete with the bigger dogs on the wireless block.

The wireless carrier, which closed a deal with Softbank, integrated Clearwire and bolstered spectrum in a transaction with U.S. Cellular, featured a muddled financial picture.

For the second quarter, Sprint reported a net loss of $1.6 billion, or 53 cents a share, on revenue of $8.8 billion. Thomson Reuters puts Sprint's non-GAAP second quarter loss at 31 cents a share, but there are many adjusted figures in the statement. Wall Street was expecting Sprint to report a second quarter non-GAAP loss of 30 cents a share on revenue of $8.88 billion.

Also see: T-Mobile gets aggressive, offers all phones for $0 at purchase | Sprint unveils 'Unlimited Guarantee' | Done deal: Sprint now owns 100 percent of Clearwire | Sprint-SoftBank $21.6B deal scheduled to close this week

In the jumbled financial results, the following positive trends stick out:

  • Sprint's wireless revenue hit $7.2 billion, a record mark for the company.
  • Average revenue per user was $64.20, which was better than the $63.76 expected by Deutsche Bank.
  • Sprint branded subscribers grew 194,000, which was much better than consensus expectations of 136,000. But many of those subscribers were switches from Sprint's Nextel brand, which was shut down.
  • Adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization was $1.4 billion as the company invested heavily in its new network and built out its 4G LTE footprint.
  • Sprint sold 1.4 million iPhones in the quarter and 41 percent of those customers were new. Sprint sold 5 million smartphones overall.
  • The company said its adjusted OIBDA forecast will be $5.5 billion to $5.7 billion, but that doesn't include dilution from the Softbank and Clearwire deals, which came to a $400 million hit. Now 2013 OIBDA will be between $5.1 billion and $5.3 billion.


Here's the problem. Sprint's results have so many adjustments and moving parts that it's tough to get a good read on them relative to AT&T and Verizon. Within two paragraphs of both reports from Sprint's largest rivals, you know the bottom and top line pictures.

In other words, Sprint is a work in progress as the following subscriber moving parts show. Sprint lost prepaid customers, added postpaid, dropped a bunch of Nextel customers and ended up with total wireless net subscriber losses of more than 2 million.



On a conference call, CEO Dan Hesse noted Sprint has made a lot of progress on many fronts, but there's still work to do and the company faces a resurgent T-Mobile from below and the giants above. Hesse said:

We believe with the combination of our existing network modernization efforts the addition of the complimentary Clearwire spectrum and scale from the Softbank transaction we can over time build a powerful network and a much stronger competitor.

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