MetroPCS bounces back in Q4 as profit surges

MetroPCS surged back in the fourth quarter as its profit doubled and its subscriber growth returned after a shaky third quarter. The carrier posted net profit of $33.1 million, up from $14.6 million in the year-ago quarter (the year-ago quarter included a $10.8 million writedown).

Despite the positivie metrics, MetroPCS' churn in the quarter also increased.

MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist declined to comment on reports that the company had hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Credit Suisse for advice on a potential purchase of longtime rival Leap Wireless. Both Leap and MetroPCS have been under pressure from Sprint Nextel's Boost Mobile unit and TracFone's Straight Talk service.

Here's a breakdown of MetroPCS' key quarterly metrics:

Subscribers: MetroPCS had 317,000 net subscriber additions in the fourth quarter, up from around 66,000 net adds in the third quarter, but down from the roughly 520,000 it had in the fourth quarter of 2008. The company ended the quarter with 6.63 million subscribers, and recorded around 1.3 million net additions in 2009.

Revenue: Total revenue was $930 million in the quarter, up 29 percent from $724 million in the year-ago quarter. Service revenues came in at $825 million, up 24 percent from $666 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Churn: Churn rose to 5.3 percent, up from 5.1 percent in the the year-ago quarter, and down from 5.8 percent in the third quarter.

ARPU: Average revenue per user was $40.70 for the quarter, down from $41.08 in the third quarter but up from $40.52 in the year-ago quarter. 

LTE: MetroPCS remained coy about the specifics of its LTE plans. Linquist said the company will launch its LTE network in the second half of the year in certain markets, though he declined to say which ones will get the service first. "We believe there could be a renaissance in the no contract wireless segment as 4G becomes readily available," he said on the company's earnings conference call. MetroPCS has started adding LTE equipment to its network (Ericsson is its primary infrastructure vendor for LTE), and made its first LTE test call this week.

MetroPCS' stock was up around 6 percent on its earnings news, to around $6.65 per share.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless Q4 earnings page
- see this release
- see this Reuters article
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article (sub. req.) 

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