Commentary

T-Mobile Reports Stellar Quarter As It Awaits Decision On Sprint Merger

Unlike its wannabe merger partner, Sprint, T-Mobile is thriving, as the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers await  the decision of a federal judge on whether their $26.5 billion union would violate antitrust statutes, as 13 state attorneys general have charged.

T-Mobile added 1.86 million customers during the fourth quarter of 2019 -- the 27th straight quarter that it has attracted more than 1 million newbies -- bringing it up to a total of 86.0 million customers. 

Its earnings beat analysts’ estimates.

“T-Mobile reports that it pulled in record service revenues of $8.7 billion for the quarter, up 6% year-over-year. Total revenues of $11.9 billion were a record, too, while net income for the quarter was $751 million, up 17% year-over-year,” according to a post on TMO News.

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“But the big question hanging over the company continues to be the fate of its proposed merger with rival Sprint,” writes  Todd Bishop for GeekWire.

“‘We are 100% convinced that this merger will result in a more competitive market with lower prices and a better network for customers,’ T-Mobile CEO John Legere said on a conference call with investors and analysts. He said the company ‘remains confident in a positive outcome’ from the merger case,” Bishop reports.

In a transcript posted  by Seeking Alpha, Legere also assured investors that the absence of his magenta-infused personality  would have no impact on the carrier’s ongoing success.

“Now, as you all know, Mike Sievert and I have been working on the CEO transition as he prepares to take over the reins on May 1. I’ve said it before and I'll say it again: This company will be in great hands with Mike and the rest of the senior leadership team we had so carefully assembled. This CEO transition is the culmination of a comprehensive multiyear succession planning process that I’ve worked on with the board of directors,” Legere told analysts and reporters on the call.

T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter said the company expects to add 2.6 million to 3.6 million customers in 2020 -- “a trajectory that would again put it ahead of rivals. T-Mobile added 4.5 million such customers in 2019,” writes  Drew FitzGerald for The Wall Street Journal.

“Investors have taken T-Mobile’s recent results in stride, pushing shares higher as they await a federal judge’s decision in the antitrust trial over its all-stock merger with rival Sprint Corp. Lawyers for the companies delivered closing arguments in January, setting up the case for a potential February verdict,” FitzGerald adds.

That decision could have far-reaching impact, according to the feds.

“State officials will ‘wreak havoc’ on U.S. merger enforcement if they diverge from federal regulators and block deals on their own as they’re trying to do with T-Mobile US Inc.’s proposed takeover of Sprint Corp., the Justice Department’s top antitrust official said,” Bloomberg’s David McLaughlin reports.

“Makan Delrahim, the head of the department’s antitrust division, on Wednesday took a swipe at the state lawsuit trying to stop the merger of the wireless carriers, which was approved by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission last year.

“‘The scenario that has unfolded here is incompatible with the orderly operation’ of our antitrust merger laws and telecommunications regulations,’ Delrahim said in a speech in Washington. If states can undo a nationwide settlement, ‘that will wreak havoc on parties’ ability to merge and the government’s ability to settle cases, and cause real uncertainty in the market for mergers and acquisitions.’”

Also uncertain is the impact on consumers should the merger succeed, or Sprint’s viability should it be scotched.

While Sprint last week described its quarterly results as “stable,” they were “nothing to call home about, with little significant movement in revenue,” Brian Kaberline writes for the company's hometown Kansas City Business Journal.

“Sprint sheds subscribers as churn climbs,” the Fierce Wireless headline tells us. Bevin Fletcher amplifies: “Sprint shed 115,000 postpaid phone subscribers in the third quarter as customers continue to leave the nation’s struggling fourth-largest carrier, though at a slower pace than Wall Street expected…. Sprint attributed the year over year phone churn increase primarily to customers coming off promotional offers, as well as competitive pressure.” 

Indeed, things were so glum at the very “stable” company, it didn’t want to talk about it.

“Sprint management didn’t hold a call to discuss its performance with analysts,” as Sarah Krouse reported for The Wall Street Journal last week.

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