Sprint reports another loss, but loses fewer subscribers

Sprint Nextel reported a big quarterly loss and a nine percent revenue slide, but, it succeeded in slowing the loss of wireless subscribers. Sprint is losing the best subscribers in the mobile business, the postpaid monthly-bill-paying ones, to the tune of 801,000 during 3Q 2009 alone.
Sprint reported a third quarter net loss of $478 million or $0.17 per share, compared to net loss of $326 million or $0.11 per share last year. Net operating revenues declined to $8.04 billion from $8.82 billion in the same quarter last year.

We asked James Fisher, Sprint’s PR person, to breakdown the sales for the Palm Pre, their high-profile smartphone launched in early June. Fisher sent us this reply: "We do not provide device-specific information in our earnings results." However, they had to be helped by the introduction of the Pre, because their subscriber losses slowed from 991,000 in the second quarter, and from the 1.25 million loss in the first quarter of 2009.

We looked for any information about Ericsson taking over the maintenance of the Sprint network. However, we did not find anything in their financial report, nor did we hear anything during their press conference about Ericsson.

The loses and number of subscribers that Sprint is losing only remind us of Quick$and effect.Sprint’s subscription results are not good when compared to the subscription numbers put out by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Between them, AT&T and Verizon Wireless added more than 3 million subscribers in the third quarter. Sprint continued to do well with prepaid customers, adding some 666,000 of them in the third quarter, due in part to its Boost Mobile, a service that allows for unlimited calls and texting at a set monthly fee. The company also expects to reduce both post-paid and total subscriber net losses in the coming quarter.

Another kick in the seat of the pants for Sprint was Precentral’s news that Apple  updated iTunes [version 9.0.2] – yet again Palm’s Pre can no longer connect to Apple’s media-sync and get iTunes. This time it only took Apple three weeks to make the necessary changes to block Palm’s webOS that Palm just "fixed."

Just another day in the testosterone match between Apple iPhone?s team and the ex-Apple employees over at Palm webOS. Probably few Sprint subscribers, with a Palm Pre smartphone, expect Palm to win this one. However, it is clearly a fun spectator sport.

Sprint can claim that they are doing better. However, they continue to loose subscribers – over three million this year, nearly the same number that went over to AT&T and Verizon. This is clearly not something investors want to see.

Sprint has gained market recognition for their Palm ads, and Palm is again seen as a serious mobile phone contender. The management at Palm is probably wondering how they can take their Pre, and leave Sprint. Back in Fall 2008, Palm was not in a strong bargaining place. Sometimes you have to make a less-than-ideal bargain to get back into the marketplace.