Sprint Sheds More Subscribers in Race With AT&T, Verizon

By Craig Galbraith Comments
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**Editor's Note: Click here to see how some of the biggest names in communications fared in Q3 2012.**

Sprint lost $1.32 billion in the fourth quarter – slightly more than a year ago – but that was actually better than Wall Street had expected.

The Overland Park, Kan.-based carrier released its earnings report and subscriber numbers on Thursday. Sprint said costs connected to shutting down its Nextel operation – an unsuccessful merger from which it's still recovering – and unexpected expenses related to Hurricane Sandy contributed significantly to the loss. Handset subsidies and the expansion of its LTE network were also factors.

Revenue was up 3.2 percent from the year-ago quarter, to $9 billion. The iPhone was a big help: Sprint sold 2.2 million of them, its best quarter ever for sales of Apple's iconic smartphone, the Kansas City Star reported.

Sprint lost another 337,000 subscribers – nearly three-quarter of those being wireless – in Q4 2012, but that was about the same as the year before. It's total number of wireless subs at the end of the quarter was 55.6 million, good enough for third place behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Verizon added 2.1 million customers on contract while AT&T added 780,000 last quarter.

SoftBank of Japan is in the process of buying 70 percent of Sprint for $20.1 billion. Assuming it gets regulatory approval, look for that deal to close later this year. Sprint wants to use some of the cash it gets from SoftBank to buy Clearwire, the spectrum-rich broadband provider, in order to further build out its LTE network.

Sprint shares were down about 1 percent as of 3:41 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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