Sprint is following the footsteps of rival and expected merger partner T-Mobile US by skipping its traditional conference calls when it updates its earnings on Wednesday.
Sprint said Monday it would release its quarterly results at 7 a.m. Central time, a half hour later than usual, but not hold management’s traditional sessions with analysts and reporters. The announcement promised “a message from management” would accompany the results.
T-Mobile US reported its third-quarter earnings and customer counts Monday morning but skipped the conference calls. Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche of Wells Fargo Securities said in a note to clients that the company decided to “let the 3Q results speak for themselves.”
Neither company had scheduled their earnings releases as of Friday though rival Verizon already reported its results and AT&T had scheduled to report Tuesday.
Unconfirmed reports had circulated that Sprint and T-Mobile hoped to announce merger plans along with their quarterly updates, but the negotiations reportedly became prolonged and delayed any announcement into November.
Monday’s reports strongly suggest that work progresses on an agreement between the two companies and their parent firms. Tokyo-based SoftBank Group Corp. owns more than 80 percent of Sprint and Germany-based Deutsche Telekom owns about two thirds of T-Mobile US.
Analyst Craig Moffett of Moffett Nathanson Research pointed out another possibility from T-Mobile’s unexpected announcement Sunday that it would release results Monday morning but not talk about the information.
“Inevitably, the speculation about why T-Mobile chose to do it this way – does this mean that a merger announcement is all the more imminent, or does it mean that talks have reached a temporary impasse (we’re assuming it means the former)? – will dominate discussion today,” Moffett’s note Monday to clients said.
A merger would combine the nation’s third and fourth largest wireless carriers into what the companies are expected to argue would be a stronger competitor for wireless industry leaders Verizon and AT&T.
Federal regulators and anti-trust officials would review any proposed deal, and there is no certainty that a merger would gain their approval.
Washington blocked AT&T’s $39 billion agreement to buy then-No. 4 carrier T-Mobile in 2011. Officials said they preferred four national wireless competitors to three. T-Mobile, armed with cash and wireless assets from a breakup provision in the AT&T deal, began a prolonged growth spurt that allowed it to surpass Sprint to become No. 3 in subscribers.
T-Mobile said Monday that its customer count increased by 1.3 million to 70.7 million at the end of September. It earned $550 million on $10 billion in revenues. Sprint had 53.7 million subscribers at the end of June.
In a video that accompanied T-Mobile’s earnings report, CEO John Legere mentioned the company’s 2013 acquisition of prepaid wireless carrier MetroPCS.
Legere called it “an acquisition that delivered goodness to both shareholders & customers,” and said T-Mobile “rewrote the book on telecom mergers” with that deal.