Why Sprint Is Getting Left High and Dry in the Mergers

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The world of mergers in wireless and media delivery is coming to a critical junction. True convergence is finally here, and there are winners and losers. AT&T-DirecTV and now Dish and T-Mobile are just a part of this. The question here is what all of this means for Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S).

24/7 Wall St. has often considered what entity would want to own Sprint. The regulatory climate today got in the way of a Sprint and T-Mobile US Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) merger, supposedly because regulators like four major carriers, even if one of those carriers just cannot operate at levels at which it can make a profit.

So, again, where does this leave Sprint? If AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is going to have a media delivery empire via DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) to merge in with the U-verse outfit, and if Dish Network Corp. (NASDAQ: DISH) is acquiring or merging with T-Mobile, are there any players who could emerge to want Sprint?

Despite a deal now looking possible for Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network, and even after a 5% gain on Thursday, the stock was about 10% shy of a 52-week high. Do dividends matter? Neither Dish nor T-Mobile pay dividends to their shareholders – and neither does Sprint for that matter.

Another consideration here is that Sprint is now effectively a tracking stock after the Softbank deal. Sprint’s market cap is almost $18 billion, versus $34 billion for Dish and $32 billion for T-Mobile. Despite having $34.5 billion in revenue for its last year, Sprint posted a loss from continuing operations of -$3.345 billion.

Without endlessly posing questions here: Sprint’s big problem is that it is the one carrier of size that is losing serious money. The carrier’s offerings are now so cheap that it gets real hard to see how it can make up the losses. Can you make up losses in volume if every sign-up loses money? For that matter, does Sprint really lose money on its endless sign-up gimmicks?

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Another issue to consider for Sprint here is that its books have a loadstone of $32.5 billion in long-term debt, and that doesn’t even address almost $18 billion more combined in long-term charges that were deferred and other liabilities. For a buyer to acquire Sprint, assuming it is not a stock deal, it probably requires more debt.