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Sprint sees glimmer of comeback as merger deal nears

In what is likely to be its last quarterly report before a merger with T-Mobile gets announced, Sprint saw its highest growth rate in more than two years.

Mysterious Sprint Spark phone
Sprint's results aren't what Wall Street care about right now. 
Lynn La/CNET

Sprint is hoping to ride out its days as an independent carrier on a high note.

The nation's fourth-largest carrier on Wednesday posted its fiscal second-quarter results, reporting that its rate of growth for post-paid subscribers, or regular customers who pay at the end of the month and often have higher phone bills, was the highest it's been in more than two years.

The results prime Sprint for a deal with another player. While the company has made some progress clawing its way back from the brink, its smaller size and the gap in coverage relative to the bigger players leaves it at a disadvantage. Despite better network test results, consumers are still wary about signing up. 

But at least for this quarter, Sprint's offer of a free year of unlimited data for customers willing to switch from a rival carrier and bring their phone seems to be resonating. It added 279,000 post-paid phone customers, along with 95,000 prepaid customers, in the period.  

Wall Street and industry players were less interested in the numbers, and more keen on any update on a potential merger with T-Mobile. Like T-Mobile, which dropped its earnings on Monday, Sprint declined to hold a conference call to discuss the results. 

T-Mobile and Sprint, along with their respective parents, German carrier Deutsche Telekom and Japanese carrier SoftBank, continue to engage in talks over a deal, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The companies believe a deal will be announced in the next few weeks. Bloomberg first reported on the delay in sealing the deal. 

Sprint added a total of 378,000 customers in the quarter, which were also helped by 115,000 wholesale additions. 

It's the last of the four carriers to post results. AT&T yesterday reported losing 97,000 postpaid phone customers, while T-Mobile added 595,000 and Verizon nabbed 274,000

The company's customer turnover rate, however, rose to 1.72 percent from 1.52 percent a year ago and 1.65 percent in the fiscal first quarter. 

The company continues to cut costs as its preps itself for a takeover, slashing expenses by $400 million in the period. It's part of a larger goal to cut $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion in expenses this fiscal year. 

Sprint posted fiscal second-quarter net loss of $48 million, or 1 cent a share. Revenue fell more than 3 percent to $7.93 billion. 

Analysts, on average, forecast revenue of $8.69 billion, according to Yahoo Finance

Sprint shares slipped 2 cents to $7 in pre-market trading. 

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