Sprint loses 991,000 postpaid subs, promises additional webOS devices

Sprint Nextel continued to lose postpaid subscribers in the second quarter, and posted a wider net loss. However, the company had significant prepaid subscriber additions and continued to generate strong cash flow and pay down its debt. Further, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse confirmed to FierceWireless that Sprint would launch additional webOS-based devices in the future, following the introduction of the webOS Palm Pre last month (the carrier did not disclose Pre sales figures).

For the quarter, Sprint had a net loss of $384 million, wider than the $344 million net loss it had in the year-ago quarter. Sprint had free cash flow of $676 million in the quarter and $1.5 billion in the first half of 2009, and a cash balance of $4.6 billion.

Sprint's stock was down around 5 percent to around $4.30 per share after the news. 

During the company's earnings conference call, Hesse reiterated that Sprint was not the same company it was 12 months ago. He said that "brand perception catching up to this new reality is crucial" to improving the company's postpaid subscriber trends. Sprint lost 991,000 postpaid subscribers in the quarter, an improvement from the 1.25 million postpaid subscribers it lost in the first quarter.

Here's a breakdown of some of the carrier's key metrics in the quarter:

Subscribers: Sprint lost a total of 257,000 net wireless subscribers in the quarter. Although it lost 991,000 postpaid subscribers, it gained 938,000 prepaid iDEN customers. Sprint also lost 161,000 prepaid CDMA customers, along with 43,000 wholesale and affiliate subscribers. Sprint finished the quarter with 48.8 million total wireless subscribers, down from 49.1 million at the end of the first quarter. Sprint's subscriber base included 34.4 million postpaid subscribers, 5 million prepaid and 9.3 million wholesale and affiliate subscribers. 

    Revenue: Sprint said wireless service revenues for the quarter were flat sequentially at $6.4 billion, and said revenue growth from its Boost Mobile Monthly Unlimited subscribers offset revenue declines from postpaid subscribers. Wireless service revenues were down 9 percent year-over-year as a result of fewer subscribers.

    ARPU: Wireless postpaid ARPU remained stable at $56--where it has been for the past six quarters--which Sprint attributed to bundles such as its Simply Everything plan. Prepaid ARPU was $34, up from $31 in the first quarter and $30 in the year-ago quarter, primarily due to increased contributions from prepaid subscribers on unlimited plans.

      Data ARPU: Sprint said data revenues contributed greater than $15.50 to overall postpaid ARPU. CDMA data ARPU increased more than 3 percent from the first quarter to greater than $18.50.

      Churn: Postpaid churn in the quarter was 2.05 percent, an improvement from 2.25 percent in the first quarter, but up from 1.98 percent in the year-ago quarter. Sprint said the sequential improvement in churn was due to seasonality, improved credit quality of its customer base and better retention performance. Sprint said the year-over-year increase was primarily due to deactivations from business lines amid the recession. Boost churn was 6.38 percent, an improvement from 6.86 percent in the first quarter and 7.36 percent in the year-ago quarter. Sprint said the improvements were due to fewer deactivations and a larger subscriber base of national Boost Monthly Unlimited subscribers.

        Palm Pre: Sprint did not detail how many Palm Pre units have been sold since the carrier launched the smartphone June 6. However, Hesse said that the carrier expects to sign up more new customers through the Pre as the device gets wider distribution in indirect retail stores such as Best Buy and RadioShack. He also did not elaborate on Sprint's exclusive rights to sell the phone in the United States, other than to say that its exclusivity lasts into 2010. "We're very confident in Palm as a company, not only the Pre but in other devices that Palm will be launching over time," Hesse said in an interview with FierceWireless. "WebOS we really think is a very strong operating platform as well. We intend to of course stay committed to the Pre, but there will also be new Palm devices that we'll be introducing as well that we're very excited about."

        Forecast:
        Sprint said it expects to continue to reduce subscriber losses as the year continues.

        For more:
        - see this release

        Related Articles:
        Sprint buying Virgin Mobile USA for $483M   
        Sprint's Hesse confirms Android plans
        Sprint CEO: We fixed Boost's texting problem
        Sprint boasts about Boost while postpaid net adds plummet
        Sprint forecasts 6 percent drop in revenue

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