Sprint's (S) downhill run is still picking up speed.The Reston, Va., wireless shop has just closed books on what analysts predict could be the worst quarter of a largely dismal 2006. Sputtering on all cylinders, Sprint appears poised to keep losing ground until the second half of this year. Sprint's list of woes, which earned it the coveted No. 3 spot in TheStreet.com's
For example, Motorola ( MOT) introduced an ultrathin phone called the Razr two years ago, and it became a huge hit for Cingular and later Verizon. Now, just as the Razr is quickly
falling out of fashion, Sprint has started offering the phone. Shockingly, it hasn't been a blockbuster. "Based on our fourth quarter store visits, Sprint sales reps indicate that they have not necessarily seen an improvement in sales as result of selling the Motorola phones," Merrill analyst David Janazzo wrote in a research note Friday. The company can't even find a suitable way to sell its image. In August, Sprint vowed to revitalize its branding efforts. That rendered some "horrid advertising," says one money manager with no Sprint positions. Last month, the company hired a new branding chief and put its advertising effort under review. As Bank of America's Darden points out, Sprint is probably pursuing a unified message since it currently has one agency handling ads to business users and another agency working on consumer advertising. Analysts say the company has a lot of work still ahead before operations start to improve. After meeting with Sprint's top management, Prudential Equity Group analyst Rick Klugman wasn't able to raise his neutral rating to a buy. "We continue to believe results will remain weak for at least the next 2-3 quarters as the new plans take effect," Klugman wrote in a note to clients.