Clearwire beats estimates on Q1 subscriber gains

Clearwire Corp., the unprofitable wholesale wireless carrier building a network across the U.S., reported first-quarter sales that beat analysts’ estimates after gaining more customers.

Sales increased 36 percent to $322.6 million, the Bellevue, Washington-based company said today in a statement. Analysts predicted $308 million, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Net loss narrowed to $181.8 million, or 44 cents a share, from $227 million, or 93 cents, a year earlier.

The carrier, which hasn’t reported an annual profit in at least five years, is benefiting from customers such as Sprint Nextel Corp. adding smartphone subscribers. Clearwire said it is in talks with additional potential wholesale customers. Sprint is a majority owner of Clearwire stock.

Clearwire rose 6.8 percent to $1.57 in extended trading. The stock had declined 24 percent this year as of the end of regular trading today.

The company, which is trying to build out a faster network using technology called long-term evolution, or LTE, said in February it may need to raise “substantial additional capital” to fund its business.

In December, Clearwire signed a four-year network-sharing agreement worth about $1.6 billion with majority owner Sprint. Sprint also accounts for most of Clearwire’s revenue.

Clearwire said today it added 537,000 wholesale customers in the first quarter, for a total of 9.7 million such subscribers. Wholesale customers access Clearwire’s network through services such as Sprint.