T-Mobile CEO John Legere sought Wednesday to reclaim deal-maker status amid a wave of unconfirmed reports that rival and potential merger partner Sprint has been looking elsewhere.
A merger between Sprint and T-Mobile had been the center of speculation about a wave of deal making in the telecommunications industry until recent unconfirmed reports put distance between the companies.
Those reports included a claim that Sprint talks with T-Mobile had been put on hold, that Sprint was talking exclusively with cable companies about a possible partnership and that Sprint’s chairman had chatted with Omaha investor Warren Buffett about some sort of arrangement.
“We have the same, but maybe more, opportunities from an inorganic or an expansion standpoint than we had last quarter,” Legere said during a conference call after reporting second quarter financial results. “I feel equally as strong about all the things I did last time.”
T-Mobile and Sprint executives and others have talked openly about the financial benefits of merging the nation’s No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers. Estimates are measured in billions of dollars a year.
But that run of recent reports pushed those potential cost savings further away, leading to a decline in T-Mobile shares.
Legere, in addition to touting his company’s deal potential, also said strong operations mean T-Mobile could succeed on its own. Network investments are bringing coverage to “every inch” of the nation. T-Mobile and its prepaid brand, MetroPCS, each will have added more than 1,000 stores this year, giving the company 17,000 in place for next year.
“We could possibly be the fastest growing retailer in America, I’m not sure,” Legere said during the quarterly session with investors, analysts and reporters.
T-Mobile’s subscriber growth continued as it added 1.3 million new customers in the second quarter, the 17th in a row that it topped the million mark. It ended June with 69.562 million subscribers, but that total excluded 4.4 million subsidized Lifeline subscribers.
The streak had started just as T-Mobile acquired prepaid wireless operator MetroPCS, which helped the combined company add 1.1 million net new customers during the second quarter of 2013. A year later, T-Mobile hit the 2 million mark in the first quarter of the year and has added at least 2 million in two of every three quarters since.
Starting this year, however, T-Mobile had reverted to 1.1 million net new customers before slipping below the seven-digit threshold this spring. This quarter’s 1.3 million customer gain is the first consecutive quarter below 2 million in the more than four-year stretch.
Some had speculated that T-Mobile might have missed the million mark as consumers hold off on wireless changes until this fall when Apple Inc. is expected to release a new version of the iPhone.
T-Mobile’s string of strong quarters propelled it past Overland Park-based Sprint to become the new No. 3 wireless carrier. Sprint’s customer count of 59.702 million at the end of June trailed T-Mobile’s 72.6 million at the end of March by 12.9 million subscribers.
Sprint plans to report its results on Aug. 1.