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Long Distance Saps Sprint

The first quarter misses on the bottom line.
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Sprint (S) - Get Free Report reported an 11% profit decline and missed first-quarter earnings targets as the company's long-distance unit posted soft numbers.

The Reston, Va., telco made $419 million, or 14 cents a share, for the quarter ended March 31, down from the year-ago $472 million, or 31 cents a share. On a so-called adjusted basis, excluding certain costs, latest-quarter earnings were 35 cents a share, 2 cents shy of the Thomson Financial analyst consensus estimate. Revenue rose 66% from a year ago as reported and 9% on a pro forma basis to $11.5 billion, beating the $11.4 billion target.

"In the first quarter, we continued to advance on our operating and strategic goals and integrate the affiliates we have acquired," said CEO Gary Forsee. "Our performance in the quarter was marked by balanced growth in Wireless and we achieved good velocity on Long Distance IP and Local DSL services. With an expected ramp-up in merger synergies during the balance of 2006, we continue to maintain our financial outlook for full year performance."

Sprint said wireless revenue rose 13% from a year ago on a pro forma basis, assuming the presence of the acquired Nextel operations in both quarters, to $8.5 billion. Adjusted operating income at the wireless operation rose 7% from a year ago to $469 million. Wireless added 1.3 million net subscribers including 563,000 under the Sprint and Nextel post-paid brands, 502,000 under the Boost Mobile brand and 273,000 through wholesale channels and from Sprint PCS affiliates. About 1.6 million subscribers were transferred from affiliates to the direct category as a result of acquisitions completed in the quarter.

Post-paid churn, measuring customer defections, was 2.1% in the quarter, consistent with the year-ago period and the fourth quarter. Normalized Boost Mobile churn in the quarter was 5.4%. Direct postpaid average revenue per user dropped 3% to $62.

In long distance, revenue dropped 3% from a year ago to $1.67 billion, while adjusted operating income dropped 20% to $115 million.

Local revenue rose 1% from a year earlier to $1.62 billion, while operating income rose 4% to $452 million.