Clearwire Pursues More Funding as Losses Mount

Losses to continue to pile up at Clearwire, the Kirkland, Wash.-based company that is building a nationwide, fourth-generation wireless network.

In its fourth-quarter earnings Thursday, Clearwire reported that the net loss attributable to the company grew year over year from $98.7 million, or $0.55 per basic share, to $128 million, or $0.53 per basic share. There was good news, though, as revenues rose 126 percent to $180.7 million.

Backed by some of the biggest names in the U.S. communications and technology fields, Clearwire continues to seek out additional funding as it builds out a nationwide 4G network that is based on WiMAX technology. As of mid February, Clearwire operated 4G networks that reached approximately 119 million people.

The company said it is examining a number of funding and other strategic alternatives, including potential strategic transactions, additional debt or equity financings and/or asset sales.” Clearwire has received offers to purchase excess spectrum that it holds, but the company said it is still evaluating whether to proceed with a sale.

Clearwire ended the fourth quarter with roughly 4.4 million subscribers, including 1.1 million retail customers and 3.3 million wholesale customers through its relationships with Comcast, Sprint Nextel and Time Warner Cable. The mobile operator said it expects to bring its total number of customers to 8.8 million by the end of the year, with the majority of those customers consisting of wholesale subscribers. 

Despite this strong growth, our current plans and funding dictate that we remain prudent with our spending,” Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow said. This year, we plan to focus on improving the operating performance of our business by aggressively growing our wholesale business and reducing expenses.”

Morrow added that the company expected to achieve positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) during 2012 and potentially generate positive cash flow without additional funding.

Significant network expansion in the near term, however, remains contingent upon additional funding,” Morrow said. 

Clearwire also disclosed in its earnings announcement that it is close to resolving a dispute with its partner and investor Sprint over wholesale pricing issues. 

Shares of Clearwire (CLWR) were trading this morning at $5.36 on the NASDAQ and have ranged in price over the last 52 weeks from a high of $8.82 and low of $4.63.

Strategic investors in Clearwire include Intel Capital, Comcast, Sprint, Google, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. 

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