Sprint's Q3 Net Loss Up

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Overland Park, Ka. - Sprint lost fewer wireless subscribers in the third quarter compared to the previous two quarters, but net loss grew year-over-year in the third quarter.

The company's third-quarter net loss grew 47 percent to $478 million from the year-ago quarter and grew 24 percent sequentially from the second quarter's $384 million loss. The company's nine-month net loss widened 24 percent to $1.46 billion.

Combined wireless and wireline revenues fell 9 percent in the quarter to $8.04 billion and 10 percent for the nine-month period to $24.4 million. Wireless accounted for 86 percent of net revenues in both periods.

The company's wireless customer base continued to shrink in the third quarter, falling by 545,000 to 48.3 million, but Sprint said subscriber losses were down 20 percent sequentially from the second quarter, and the second-quarter's subscriber losses were down 20 percent sequentially from the first quarter.

Wireless revenues fell 8 percent in the quarter to $6.9 billion from the year-ago period, 2 percent sequentially, and 10 percent for the nine-month period to $21 billion, not only reflecting subscriber losses but likely also reflecting more price-aggressive rate plans.

Sprint's earnings also took a hit from handset subsidies that grew almost 36 percent to support a broader selection of phones with "higher functionality" and to acquire more prepaid handsets to keep up with demand for the Boost Monthly Unlimited prepaid plan, the company said.

Handset subsidies soared to $950 million in the quarter from the year-ago $700 million and the second quarter's $850 million. Third-quarter handset purchases came to $1.48 billion, and revenues from the handsets' sales came to about $530 million, resulting in the approximate $950 million subsidy figure.

The 545,000 loss in subscribers included net losses of 271,000 CDMA-network and 530,000 iDEN-network postpaid subscribers, 135,000 prepaid CDMA subscribers, and 410,000 wholesale (MVNO) and affiliate subscribers. Those losses were only partially offset by a net 801,000 gain in prepaid iDEN subscribers attracted to new sharply priced iDEN prepaid plans.

Post-paid churn of 2.17 percent for the quarter was up slightly from 2.15 percent in the year-ago period and 2.05 percent in the second quarter. Prepaid churn was up to 6.55 percent from the second-quarter's 6.38 percent but down from the year-ago 8.16 percent.

Wireline net operating revenues revenue were down 1.2 percent to $1.41 billion compared to wireless revenues of $6.93 billion.

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