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Sprint Stock Rises on Narrower Loss, Upbeat Forecast

The No. 4 U.S. carrier says its turnaround is taking hold.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

Sprint on Tuesday posted financial results ahead of expectations while adding more than 500,000 postpaid subscribers; the company also raised its financial outlook for the remainder of its fiscal year.

The No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier posted a loss of $836 million, or 21 cents per share, on operating revenue of $8.1 billion for the three months ended Dec. 31. Analysts were expecting a per-share loss of 21 cents, according to Zacks. Revenue, though, was less than the roughly $8.2 billion that analysts had been targeting.

“This quarter marks a big step forward in our turnaround effort,” CEO Marcelo Claure said on a conference call with analysts, promising both a return to profitability and improvement in its network.

Sprint shares rose in pre-market trading on the report, changing hands recently at $2.89, up 37 cents, or more than 14 percent.

In addition to topping estimates for the current quarter, Sprint said that its earnings for the current fiscal year, excluding taxes, interest and amortization, would be in the range of $7.7 billion to $8 billion, up from prior guidance of $6.8 billion to $7.1 billion. It also expects earnings for the next fiscal year, on the same basis, to be $9.5 billion to $10 billion.

The company is still in the midst of a lot of hard work as it looks to cut $2.5 billion in costs while simultaneously working to improve its network. Sprint is expected to talk more about those plans later Tuesday in separate conference calls, first with financial analysts and then with the media.

Re/code reported earlier this month that part of the plan involves an unorthodox approach to building its next-generation network and reducing its reliance on the landline networks of rivals to carry data from the cell towers back to the Internet.

Sprint also said it incurred $209 million in costs related to job cuts, a move which dented per-share earnings by five cents per share. The company is closing four call centers and reducing operations at two others as well as making other workforce reductions at its Overland Park, Kan., headquarters. Overall, the company has cut 2,500 jobs, according to a Kansas City Star estimate.

As for the past quarter, Sprint said it added 501,000 postpaid customers, including 366,000 phone customers. Postpaid customers, those who pay their bill at the end of each month, have historically been more coveted and lucrative than those who use prepaid brands, like Sprint’s Boost and Virgin Mobile brands or T-Mobile’s Metro PCS.

That has started to shift, though, as some value-conscious customers with good credit have gone prepaid.

Sprint’s prepaid business tumbled in the quarter as the company lost 491,000 customers. On the conference call, Claure blamed increased competition as well as a decision by Sprint to focus its promotion efforts on its core brand.

Overall, though, Sprint managed to add customers, thanks to gains from its wholesale business, which allows other companies, such as FreedomPop, to sell wireless services using their brand and Sprint’s network.


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