Sprint Nextel posts wider 2Q loss

Sprint Nextel S, the nation's third-largest wireless provider, on Wednesday said its loss widened in the second quarter as revenue and subscribers continued to decline.

The Overland Park, Kan.-based company reported a loss of $384 million, or 13 cents a share, in the three months ended June 30. That's larger than its loss of $344 million, or 12 cents a share, a year ago.

Sprint's revenue fell 10% to $8.14 billion from $9.06 billion a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected a loss of 2 cents a share on lower revenue of $8.12 billion. Analysts typically exclude one-time items from their earnings estimates. The company didn't report an adjusted earnings figure that excludes one-time items.

Wireless revenues fell 9% to $7 billion as the company shed another 257,000 subscribers during the quarter, a small increase from the 182,000 lost in the first quarter.

The losses included 991,000 valuable customers who sign annual contracts, which was an improvement from the 1.25 million lost in the previous quarter but worse than the 780,000 shed a year ago.

By comparison, Verizon Wireless VZ picked up a net of 1.1 million subscribers during the second quarter while AT&T T added 1.37 million.

Making up some of the difference for Sprint were net gains of 938,000 prepaid customers on its iDEN network.

Most of the iDEN increase came from Sprint's Boost Mobile prepaid subsidiary, which earlier this year began offering unlimited calling, texting and data services for $50 a month. Unlike postpaid customers, prepaid subscribers don't sign contracts and generally generate less revenue.

Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse said he was gladdened to see slower losses of subscribers and the continued gain of prepaid customers, but acknowledged, "we are not satisfied that we lost a quarter of a million customers in the quarter."

Sprint signaled its dedication to the fast-growing prepaid phone market on Tuesday when it announced it is buying Virgin Mobile USA VM for $483 million. Sprint already owned 13.1% of Virgin Mobile, which uses Sprint's network to offer service and has 5.2 million subscribers who pay an average of $20 a month.

Sprint has 48.8 million subscribers.

The company offered few details about sales of Palm's Pre, a smartphone Sprint began selling on an exclusive basis last month and which has been compared favorably to Apple's iPhone.

The company, which hasn't seen a quarterly net gain in subscribers since the second quarter of 2007, has struggled attracting and retaining customers since buying Nextel Communications Inc. in 2005. The Pre is considered a key step toward attracting customers lured away by the iPhone and other flashy devices offered by competitors.

Revenues for Sprint's wireline division, which serves long-distance, business customers and back-haul operations, declined 11% to $1.4 billion, reflecting the general industry decline as more customers switch to wireless and Internet-based phone services.

Sprint didn't provide specific financial guidance for the remainder of the year, other than to say that it expected total and prepaid subscriber losses to be smaller than in 2008.

Analysts are expecting an annual loss of 7 cents per share on $32.4 billion in revenue.

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