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Sprint Third-Quarter Loss Widens

Sprint's losses widen, but the telecom giant sees light at the end of the tunnel.

(Updated with CEO conference call comments)

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (

TheStreet

) --

Sprint Nextel

(S) - Get SentinelOne, Inc. Class A Report

's third-quarter loss widened to $478 million, but CEO Dan Hesse says that the company is starting to turn the corner.

Sprint, which has been wrestling with customer losses, reported revenue of $8 billion before the market opened, down from $8.8 billion in the same period last year. Sales were just below analysts' estimate of $8.09 billion. The company lost 17 cents a share on a net loss of $478 million, down from a loss of 11 cents a share and a net loss of $326 million in the prior year's quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had predicted a loss of 15 cents a share.

The wireless provider lost a total of 135,000 net retail subscribers in the quarter, although Sprint saw sequential improvement in addition of new post-paid and prepaid customers.

"Sprint achieved its best net retail results in more than two years and improvement in both post-paid and prepaid gross subscriber additions in the third quarter," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement released before market open. "We expect to see sequential quarterly improvement in both post-paid and total net subscriber losses in the fourth quarter of 2009."

The Kansas-based firm, which began offering

Palm's

(PALM)

Pre phone during the second quarter, generated free cash flow of $664 million during the quarter, and Hesse said that Sprint is "rigorously" managing its costs.

Sprint's

wireless

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business brought in $6.9 billion during the quarter, down from $7.5 billion in the same period last year. Sales also dipped 2% sequentially, with Sprint blaming the declines on fewer post-paid subscribers, although this was partially offset by more prepaid customers.

The company's wireline offerings generated $1.4 billion, down from $1.6 billion in the prior year's quarter.

For 2009, Sprint predicts that full-year capital expenditures will be less than $1.7 billion, and expects to continue generating free cash flow during the fourth quarter.

Sprint's results come

hot on the heels

of good

quarterly numbers

from

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Verizon Communications Inc. Report

and

AT&T

(T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report

, with both firms experiencing strong wireless and weak wireline sales.

"We're far from satisfied in that we have not returned to subscriber growth yet," said Hesse, during a conference call to discuss the results. "We're beginning to turn the corner in gross adds, but we must reduce churn further."

The CEO nonetheless expects a boost from Sprint's expanding 4G efforts. "It's too early to move the needle a lot but it will give us momentum in 2010," he said. "4G and multi-mode devices will give us some lift moving forward."

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York