Sprint positioned for ‘truly awful’ fourth quarter

Sprint store (with new logo, use this)
Sprint is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results tomorrow morning. (Image: Sprint)

Three of the nation’s four nationwide wireless network operators have reported their fourth-quarter results, and all of them have dramatically exceeded Wall Street expectations for postpaid customer additions. That leaves just one outstanding question: What does that mean for Sprint?

“Sprint’s postpaid phone net adds could disappoint,” warned the analysts at Deutsche Bank Market Research. “AT&T, Verizon and TMobile have each reported postpaid phone net adds that far exceeded DBe/street expectations.”

Indeed, Verizon reported postpaid phone net additions of 431,000 (above Wall Street expectations of 282,000); T-Mobile announced 891,000 postpaid net phones additions for the period (ahead of Wall Street expectations of 810,000); and AT&T yesterday notched postpaid phone net additions of 329,000 (way above Wall Street estimates of a loss of 36,000 customers).

The Deutsche Bank analysts are not alone in their worries over Sprint. In a separate report, the analysts from MoffettNathanson also noted that AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all reported results that exceeded most Wall Street expectations. The firm warned Sprint could be on pace for a “truly awful” quarter.

“Our current forecast for Sprint postpaid phone net adds (DBe: +268k) implies the national carriers grew postpaid phone net adds by 37% yoy (vs. +23%/+18% yoy in 2Q17/3Q17),” wrote the analysts at Deutsche Bank. “Obviously, this implies a downside bias to Sprint’s results if we assume the market grew at rates consistent with recent quarters.”

However, at least one analyst firm isn’t placing the situation solely in Sprint’s lap. The analysts at New Street Research argued that a prepaid-to-postpaid trend may be playing out at all of the nation’s carriers. “VZ and T both posted better than expected postpaid phone net adds, but with TMUS also outperforming on postpaid phone net adds, we are left to wonder which carrier(s) are letting prepaid subs into the postpaid market, and whether all of the subs being added are of similar quality.”

Added New Street: “More importantly, cable’s entry into wireless is ready to upset the apple cart again in 2018; we expect that the cable industry will have an annualized run-rate of 2.5-3.0MM wireless net adds by the end of the year, largely at the expense of the incumbents (and AT&T looks particularly exposed with no MVNO revenues to offset the pressure).”

Sprint is scheduled to report its earnings tomorrow morning.