All Signs Go, Nextel Says

The wireless highflier says 2003 numbers will meet its estimates.
Author:
Publish date:

Nextel (NXTL) eased shoulders on the Street Monday, sticking by its 2003 performance targets.

Last week, some investors grew anxious about the highflying wireless shop after CEO Tim Donahue canceled his appearance at an investment conference starting this week. But on Monday, Nextel said treasurer Richard Lindahl would replace Donahue and that he would stand by the company's previous financial guidance.

The Reston, Va., cellular phone service provider

said in November that it expected 2003 earnings of $1.15 a share. The company reiterated that forecast in a press release early Monday.

The nation's No. 5 wireless service had a strong year in 2003, posting solid subscriber growth and its first-ever profits. The surge in business was also good for the stock, which more than doubled last year. But many investors now question whether Nextel can sustain its momentum in the face of new competition from

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

and

Sprint PCS

(PCS)

, focusing on Nextel's once-exclusive two-way radio service. Also looming over the industry is a full year of so-called number portability, which allows customers to change carriers without dropping a well-worn phone number.

Nextel's Lindahl is expected to repeat the company's guidance this morning during a 10 a.m. EST presentation at Smith Barney's media and communications conference in Phoenix. Going by the company's comments early Monday, net subscriber additions for the year will reach 2.2 million or more and free cash flow could surpass $1 billion.

Those numbers are largely in line with analysts' expectations, though the Reuters Research consensus calls for earnings of $1.18 for the year.

Nextel shares were up 15 cents to $28.01 in premarket trading Monday.