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Softbank Dumps Another $87 Million Into Trouble Sprint

Douglas A. McIntyre

Sprint Corp. (NYSE:S) needs more than $86 million to improve its chances of not falling further into fourth place among American wireless carriers. However, that is what its controlling shareholder Softbank invested recently.

According to a Softbank filing, its wholly owned subsidiary, Galaxy Investment Holdings, bought 22,873,301 shares, which is 0.58% of Sprint's float. The exact value of the transaction was $86,911,576.12. Sprint's market cap is $15.4 billion.

In its most recent quarter, revenue was $8.0 billion, down from $8.8 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Sprint posted a net loss of $20 million, compared to profit of $23 million in the same period last year. The company's excuse:

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Net operating revenues of $8 billion decreased nine percent year-over-year, as customer shifts to rate plans associated with device financing options and postpaid phone customer losses drove lower wireless service revenues, and equipment revenues were impacted due to a shift from installment billing sales, which recognize more revenue at the point of sale, to leasing sales, which recognize revenues over time.

Wall Street did not think much of the plan. Sprint's stock is down 33% over the past year. By contrast, shares of its mortal enemy, T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS), are up 44% over the same trim frame.

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Sprint has been dogged by trouble since 2004. For a long time, it held a distant third place in the American market against juggernauts AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ). It has been a puzzle that Softbank put anything into Sprint at all. The $87 million it has given Sprint is a symbol of its commitment, but one that will not impress the market. The amount is so tiny, and Sprint is so desperate, that Softbank should not have made the investment at all.

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