Sprint Nextel (S)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 26, 2011 8:00 am ET

Executives

Steven L. Elfman - President of Network Operations & Wholesale

Daniel R. Hesse - Chief Executive Officer, President, Director and Chairman of Executive Committee

Joseph J. Euteneuer - Chief Financial Officer

Yijing Brentano - Vice President Investor Relations

Analysts

John C. Hodulik - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Michael McCormack - Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division

Philip Cusick - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Michael Rollins - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Jason Armstrong - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Simon Flannery - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Jonathan Chaplin - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

David W. Barden - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

David Michael Dixon - FBR Capital Markets & Co., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good morning. My name is April, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Sprint Third Quarter Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Thank you. I will now turn the call over to Yijing Brentano, Head of IR. Ma'am, you may begin.

Yijing Brentano

Thank you, April. Good morning, and welcome to Sprint Nextel's Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Call. Thanks for joining us this morning.

For the format of the call, Dan Hesse, our CEO, will discuss operational performance in the quarter; and then our CFO, Joe Euteneuer, will cover the financial aspects of the quarter. Before we get underway, let me remind you that our release and the presentation slides that accompany this call are both available on the Investor Relations page of the Sprint website.

Slide 2 is our cautionary statement. I want to point out that in our remarks this morning, we will be discussing forward-looking information, which involves a number of risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from our forward-looking statements. We provide a comprehensive list of risk factors in our SEC filings, which I encourage you to review, including Part I, Item 1A Risk Factors of our annual report on Form 10-K and, when filed, Part II, Item 1A Risk Factors of our quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2011.

In addition, we are in the process of finalizing our 2012 budget. As a result, we will not be providing formal guidance beyond 2011. However, we will be covering some illustrative 2012 impacts to help discuss liquidity expectations, and et cetera. We will provide 2012 guidance on our fourth quarter earnings call.

Turning to Slide 3, throughout our call, we will refer to several non-GAAP metrics. Reconciliations of our non-GAAP performance and liquidity measures to the appropriate GAAP measures for the third quarter can be found on the attachments to our earnings release and also at the end of today's presentation, which are available on our website at www.sprint.com/investors.

Let's move now to earnings per share on Slide 4. Basic and diluted loss per common share for the third quarter were $0.10 compared to the $0.28 in the second quarter and $0.30 in the year ago period. The loss per share decreased as compared to the second quarter, partly due to driver that also impacted the sequential change in adjusted OIBDA, which Joe will discuss in more detail later on the call.

In addition, loss per share decreased sequentially due to lower equity losses in unconsolidated investments and other, as well as lower net tax expense.

The current period loss per share includes $0.09 in equity losses of unconsolidated investments and other, net of the effect of increased devaluation allowance.

During the second and third quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of 2010, there were no adjustments made to OIBDA. As a result, we will refer to adjusted OIBDA as OIBDA throughout our call this morning.

We recorded a net tax expense of $12 million in 3Q '11. As a reminder, 2Q '11 included a one-time $52 million expense resulting from the cumulative effect of changes in Michigan's corporate income tax law enacted in the second quarter.

For the full year 2011, we continue to expect our net tax expense to be approximately $200 million to $250 million. Also please keep in mind that Clearwire's third quarter 2011 results from operations have not yet been finalized. Please refer to the press release in our form 10-Q for additional detail.

I will now turn the call over to Sprint's CEO, Dan Hesse.

Daniel R. Hesse

Thank you, Yijing, and good morning, everyone. I will organize my remarks as usual around our 3 key priorities, the customer experience, the brand and cash.

Beginning with the customer experience. Earlier this year, we mentioned we had reached at least a tie for first place in the customer satisfaction ratings among major wireless carriers by well-respected independent evaluators like Consumer Reports and The American Customer Satisfaction Index. We went from last to first in a short period of time.

If you turn to Slide 5, I am pleased that in this third quarter, we received 3 more awards from highly regarded J.D. Power and Associates for the purchase experience for the Sprint brand and for both customer service performance and for the purchase experience for Boost. Customer satisfaction is also reflected in churn. Prepaid churn achieved its best level in 6 years and postpaid churn was best ever for third quarter. Best 6 quarters of postpaid churn in our company's history have been the last 6 quarters.

Sequentially, churn did increase, driven primarily by an increase in involuntary churn due in part to a tougher U.S. economic climate. Voluntary churn, the part of churn driven by customer satisfaction brand, improved significantly year-over-year.

Moving on to the brand in Slide 6. We continue to make progress with our key Brand Health metrics: Most want to investigate, Purchase Consideration, positive brand momentum, and first brand preference, each achieved all-time bests in the third quarter.

Please turn to Slide 7. As I have discussed with you in the past, the most tangible evidence of brand improvement is subscriber performance and a strong brand is especially critical to generating gross adds or attracting new customers. As this chart depicts, Sprint's gross adds had been declining steadily since late 2005. The brand had weakened enough that gross adds dropped for 13 of 14 quarters, downward momentum being strong enough to blow right through seasonality, dropping by over 2 million postpaid gross adds per quarter.

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