Clearwire 3Q loss narrows on lower expenses

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Clearwire Corp.'s third-quarter loss from continuing operations narrowed as the wireless network operator reduced expenses.

The company's loss from continuing operations was $41.3 million, or 22 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. That compares with a loss of $83.5 million, or 53 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast a loss of 27 cents per share.

Those results strip out losses from discontinued operations. Overall, the company reported a net loss of $213.8 million, or 34 cents per share, more than double the loss of $84.8 million, or 54 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

The number of outstanding shares jumped about 60 percent since the year-ago quarter, which accounts for the smaller per-share loss.

Selling, general and administrative expenses declined to $139.4 million from $176.5 million. Total operating expenses dropped to $646.8 million from $731.3 million.

Revenue fell 6 percent to $313.9 million from $332.2 million mostly because of lower wholesale revenue. Wall Street predicted $312 million.

Clearwire said that it had about 10.5 million total subscribers at the quarter's end. This is up 10 percent from the prior-year period. However, it lost 489,000 whole subscribers compared with the second quarter, and added 21,000 retail subscribers.

"Management noted on the conference call that the loss of wholesale subscribers can be primarily attributed to Sprint's focus on selling the iPhone and other non-Wimax-related devices," Stifel Nicholas analyst Christopher King wrote in a client note.

King said the number of wholesale subscribers added through Sprint is somewhat irrelevant, because the companies have a fixed-price contract through 2013. However, in 2014, pricing reverts to a usage-based model. "At some point, obviously, CLWR will need to show investors that it can materially grow its subscriber base," the analyst said.

The company reaffirmed its forecast for 2012 revenue of $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.

Analysts expect $1.26 billion in revenue.

Earlier this month Sprint Nextel Corp. said that it wants to buy out Clearwire founder Craig McCaw in order to gain majority control of the company. Sprint said that it will pay wireless pioneer McCaw and his holding company $100 million for a stake in Clearwire, pushing Sprint's voting stake in the Bellevue, Wash. company from 48.15 percent to 50.45 percent.

Shares of Clearwire added 4 cents, or 2.2 percent to $1.84 in Friday afternoon trading.