Sprint tops 3Q estimate

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Sprint said Tuesday that earnings were 47 cents a share, just beating First Call Corp.'s estimate of 46 cents a share.

Consolidated net operating revenues for the quarter of $5.97 billion, an 18 percent increase from $5.07 billion in the third quarter of 1999. Earnings from core operations, excluding losses from the company's ION venture, were 67 cents a share, up 14 percent from the same period a year ago.

Shares closed down 0.75 to 23.813 Monday, having fallen slightly since they charged ahead on an upgrade in September. Shares in Sprint PCS (NYSE: PCS), which tracks the company's wireless business, closed down 3.06 to 31.75.

Sprint said growth in earnings was driven by increased sales of data services, bundled service offerings, improved cost control, and reduced net interest costs, as it continues to shift into high-value wireless customers. The company's PCS Group reported strong operating cash flow and customer growth.

The PCS Group reported net operational additions of 839,000, up 16 percent from the same period a year ago. Average monthly revenue per user increased to $59, up from the $54 in last year's third quarter. Total net operating revenues nearly doubled to $1.67 billion from $844 million the same quarter a year ago. Net loss was 41 cents per share, or $390 million, compared to 65 cents per share, or $615 million, a year ago.

In the FON Group, revenues increased 2.4 percent to $4.40 billion, while normalized earnings per share of 47 cents were down 2 percent from the third quarter a year ago. Diluted earnings per share from core operations increased 14 percent to 67 cents per share, compared to 59 cents per share a year ago.

In the company's long-distance business, revenue increased 3 percent to $2.75 billion. And in Local telecommunications, net operating revenue increased 3 percent to $1.42 billion.

Sprint's ION venture amounted to after-tax losses of 13 cents per share for the quarter compared with 7 cents per share in the quarter a year ago. Normalized third quarter after-tax losses for other ventures were 7 cents per share compared with 4 cents per share a year ago.

In a separate release Tuesday, Sprint announced its employees may cancel stock options granted to them in 2000, in exchange for new options to make up for the merger premium that buoyed the stock in 2000. Since the WorldCom merger was terminated, "the options no longer have sufficient value to motivate and retain employees in today's tight employment market," the company said.