For Sprint, Many Shoppers But No Buyers

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Sprint (NYSE: S) is one of the most deeply wounded large American public companies. It sits dead last in the race for wireless subscribers, behind red-hot T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS), AT&T (NYSE: T), and Verizon (NYSE: VZ). Major investor Softbank has been trying to unload all or part of the company.  The most recent tire-kickers are Berkshire Hathaway’s (NYSE: BRK-B) Warren Buffett and Liberty Media’s John Malone. The rumor is that they may put $10 billion to $20 billion into the troubled company.

Sprint’s market cap is $34 billion, so it is hard to see how an investment would work. It might go in as debt or as a preferred stock instrument. That could dilute current investors. However, news of the possible investment drove the stock higher by 4% to $8.55.

Sprint recently talked to Charter Cable and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) about strategic partnerships. It appears those deals have not gone anywhere. Sprint has also had conversations about a merger with T-Mobile off and on for years. That deal would allow the combined operation to compete with behemoths AT&T and Verizon. However, T-Mobile might not want to be dragged down by Sprint’s problems.

Sprint’s revenue has been flat at $34 billion for the last three calendar years. The combined operating income over the same period is close to zero. T-Mobile has grabbed market share from Sprint over the same period. That may be because Sprint’s network and customer service are both rock bottom in most surveys of wireless customers.

Reuters wrote:

A significant cash infusion in Sprint would give the debt-laden company flexibility and resources to continue its turnaround and invest in its network, the sources said, which could help it better compete in the fierce U.S. wireless industry. It would also relieve pressure from it having to strike a deal with T-Mobile US Inc, a unit of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG, which it held talks with earlier this year, sources said.

On the other hand, the investment may be good money after bad. Softbank’s investment has not helped Sprint. There is no reason anyone else’s will.