Sprint (NYSE:S) bumped up its quarterly earnings call to next week in an apparent move to ease the fears of investors in the wake of plummeting shares and downgraded credit ratings. The carrier had been expected to report earnings during the first week of February, but yesterday announced it would report its earnings on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
While the nation's fourth-largest carrier is expected to report its first full year of subscriber growth in eight years, shares have sunk 26.5 percent during the past week following reports that Sprint is planning a dramatic network overhaul. The company reportedly will relocate much of its equipment from leased space on private land to more affordable, government-owned space, and will transition away from using fiber-optic cables owned by AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) in favor of microwave technology for linking its cell towers to telecom networks.
The network transition is part of a larger plan to cut as much as $2.5 billion in costs. Sprint also took a $150 million charge for expenses related to layoffs that are expected to continue through January.
Meanwhile, Sprint was given a "B" rating by analysts at Morningstar, indicating the carrier is a high default risk, and Jefferies Group analysts reduced their EPS estimates for Sprint during the recent quarter. Moody's Investors Service downgraded credit ratings for Sprint in November, and Bloomberg Business recently reported parent SoftBank has taken on roughly $100 billion debt over Sprint's financial woes.
Despite all the bad news, though, Sprint's position may not be dire, according to Jennifer Fritzsche of Wells Fargo Securities.
"We want to hear from them -- because the story is not THAT bad," Fritzsche said in a note to investors. "Our checks would show that S saw some momentum with net adds and continued low churn. We continue to believe the bonds (which are trading at distressed levels) and equity are trading a worst case scenario and well below the asset value of the 2.5 GHz spectrum."
"We believe Sprint is the most interesting stock on our wireless list right now," Fritzsche continued. "We view Sprint's outlined path for Network Vision very positively."
Investors seemed pleased to hear of Sprint's move to reschedule its quarterly report. Shares rose 2 percent on the news yesterday afternoon, and continued to climb another 6 percent this morning.
- see this Sprint press release
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