If fiscal first-quarter results are any indication, things are getting back into shape at this telecommunication company, which has long played fourth fiddle to Verizon Communications, AT&T and T-Mobile US.
Sprint is a result of the 2005 merger between Nextel Communications and Sprint. The integration process was complicated due to contrasting network technology.
In 2006, the combined companies, then called Sprint Nextel, exited the local land line telephone business. Finally, in 2008, Sprint was compelled to write down more than $29 billion of the $36 billion that it had paid for Nextel Communications.
It wasn't until 2012 that Sprint got a new lease on life when Japanese telecom company SoftBank said that it intended to purchase 70% of Sprint Nextel for $20.1 billion.
But with huge debt of more than $33 billion, as well as dealing with declining subscriber counts and shrinking earnings, Sprint had become a pariah for investors. The popular narrative was that Sprint was destined for extinction and that SoftBank had made a bad investment.
Fast-forward to Monday when Sprint reported results that took Wall Street by surprise. The stock quickly shot up as much as 25% in one session, even as investors tried to understand why and how Sprint reported its highest first-quarter postpaid phone net additions in nine years, while simultaneously witnessing the lowest-ever postpaid phone churn of 1.39%.
Importantly, Sprint's postpaid business was net port positive against its competitors for the first time in more than five years. In order to preserve its base of subscribers, Sprint pursued aggressive promotions in the recent past, offering discounts to those who switch to its network.
Meanwhile, Sprint posted a quarterly loss of 8 cents a share, which was in line with estimates, as revenue fell 0.2% to $8.01 billion, beating the FactSet consensus estimate of $7.99 billion.
Some analysts are interpreting customer data trends as pointing to a reversal of Sprint's subscriber loss. The growth in postpaid subs, up 173,000 and its fourth straight quarter of net adds, may not be huge, but it represents growth, nonetheless.
In addition, as Sprint's chief executive hints that the company may be raising rates tied to the upcoming iPhone 7 release, some analysts think that the launch of Apple's new phone could benefit the telecom in no small way.
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In short, Wall Street has re-calibrated its expectations for Sprint after practically having no expectations at all.
For the full fiscal year, Sprint is offered guidance on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $9.5 billion to $10 billion, versus consensus expectations of $9.77 billion, and adjusted free cash flow of about break-even.
Sprint's stock has gained nearly 63% year to date, outperforming AT&T (up 24.8%), T-Mobile US (up 15.1%) and Verizon Communications (up 20.4%).
Cautious investors should wait at least a couple of quarters to be 100% sure that this perceived comeback isn't a flash in the pan.
However, despite that fair warning, those who want to buy now should wait for a dip and be ready for a wild ride. They could actually make killer profits.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.