Feb. 12, 2014, 3:46 PM
- Japanese tech/telecom giant SoftBank (SFTBF) has reported a 0.8% passive stake in Zynga (ZNGA +2.9%). Shares of the social game developer have rallied in response, and are close to their 52-week high of $4.97.
- SoftBank's empire includes Sprint (80%-owned), a 37% stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and Japan's third-largest mobile carrier.
Feb. 12, 2014, 10:20 AM
- Deutsche's Brett Feldman has upgraded Sprint (S +1.4%) to Buy following yesterday's Q4 report, albeit while leaving his PT unchanged at $9.25. He cites Sprint's spectrum advantage (presumably a reference to its high-frequency assets following the Clearwire deal), and the carrier's 2-year EBITDA growth outlook.
- However, Feldman still expects major subscriber losses in 1H14, followed by "a return to modest growth" once Sprint's Network Vision 4G initiative is finished. He's also skeptical a T-Mobile USA (TMUS +0.4%) deal will happen in light of regulatory concerns.
- But while regulators continue signaling their skepticism, SoftBank's (SFTBF) Masayoshi Son appears undeterred in his quest to merge the #3 and #4 U.S. U.S. mobile carriers. Son tells the WSJ it would be "a dream within a dream" to challenge Verizon and AT&T without the scale provided by an acquisition. "I can't settle for No. 3 or No.2. It's my personality."
- Recent WSJ and Bloomberg reports suggested Sprint/SoftBank are weighing their options in the wake of recent DOJ/FCC comments.
Feb. 11, 2014, 9:34 AM
- Sprint (S +7.2%) saw a net gain of 682K mobile platform subs in seasonally strong Q4 - 58K postpaid, 322K prepaid, 302K wholesale/affiliate. Though that figure is well below Verizon and T-Mobile's Q4 net adds, and moderately below AT&T's, it represents a turnaround from Q3's 95K net loss (includes a loss 360K postpaid subs).
- The #3 U.S. carrier is also guiding for 2014 adjusted EBITDA of $6.5B-$6.7B, up from a 2013 level of $5.4B and a 2012 level of $4.8B. Q4 adjusted EBITDA margin was 14.5%, up from the year-ago period's 10.3%.
- Mobile service revenue rose 2% Y/Y to $7.15B, equipment revenue (phone/tablet sales) rose 15% to $1.16B. SG&A spend was nearly flat at $2.44B.
- Postpaid ARPU was $64.11, down slightly from $64.24 in Q3 and $64.17 a year ago. Postpaid churn rose to 2.07% from 1.99% in Q3 and 1.98% a year ago.
- Sprint's wireline division saw revenue drop 9% to $859M. Its op. income fell to $23M from $71M.
- With parent SoftBank (SFTBF) willing to spend aggressively to improve Sprint's 4G coverage, Sprint has set a 2014 capex budget of $8B, up from a 2013 level of $7.5B and a 2012 level of $5.4B.
- Q4 results, PR
Feb. 6, 2014, 11:16 AM
- After rallying yesterday on a report Sprint (S -6.1%) is close to lining up $45B in financing for a T-Mobile USA (TMUS -5.4%) bid, Sprint and T-Mobile are selling off following a Bloomberg report stating FCC/DOJ regulators have "resisted the concept" of a merger between the carriers in preliminary talks with SoftBank's (SFTBF) Masayoshi Son, and that Son and Sprint's Dan Hesse now "plan to decide in the next few weeks whether to move ahead on a bid."
- Bloomberg adds Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY) has asked Son to "gauge regulatory sentiment" towards a merger, and that Son and DT's perception of regulatory feedback will "determine their next steps."
- In addition, SoftBank and DT are reportedly at odds over the breakup fee for any deal - SoftBank wants a small one on account of regulatory risks, DT feels differently.
- FCC and DOJ officials have already suggested they're skeptical about backing a merger between the #3 and #4 U.S. mobile carriers. While Sprint might argue the carriers need to merge to effectively compete against Verizon/AT&T, T-Mobile's recent share gains bring that claim into question.
- More on Sprint/T-Mobile
Feb. 5, 2014, 2:20 PM
- Sources tell dealReporter Sprint (S +6.5%) is close to obtaining $45B in financing for a T-Mobile USA (TMUS +3.9%) bid. Both Sprint and T-Mobile shares have spiked higher in response.
- The WSJ previously reported Sprint has received proposals from at least two banks for a bid that would value T-Mobile's equity at $31B. In addition to the financing needed to acquire Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGY) 67% T-Mobile equity stake, Sprint and parent SoftBank (SFTBF) will need funds to cover (and potentially refinance) T-Mobile's $20B debt load.
- The report comes as DOJ/FCC officials continue taking a skeptical view of a deal that stands to reduce the number of nationwide U.S. carriers to three.
Jan. 28, 2014, 6:44 PM
- The WSJ reports Sprint (S) CEO Dan Hesse and SoftBank (SFTBF, SFTBY) chief Masayoshi Son met DOJ officials this month regarding a possible T-Mobile USA (TMUS) bid, and were told a deal would be viewed "with skepticism."
- The paper adds SoftBank and T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY, DTEGF) have been talking about a deal, but are still "working through remaining issues" such as the size of the deal's breakup fee (Son reportedly is pushing for a small one) and whether Sprint or T-Mobile's brand would be retained.
- Both the DOJ and FCC have been expected to show intense scrutiny of a merger that would lower the number of nationwide U.S. carriers to three, and feature a carrier that has been upending the U.S. mobile industry with new promotions and pricing schemes.
- TMUS -1.7% AH.
- More on Sprint/T-Mobile
Jan. 27, 2014, 1:48 PM
- During a Bloomberg TV interview, outspoken T-Mobile USA (TMUS -0.1%) CEO John Legere provided fresh hints his firm is open to merging with Sprint (S +6.5%).
- Legere: "We all need better scale and capability ... The question starts to be: How do you take the maverick and supercharge it? We either need more spectrum and capability and a lot more investment, or we need consolidation."
- Sprint and parent SoftBank (SFTBF, SFTBY) have been widely reported to be lining up financing to acquire Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGF, DTEGY) 67% T-Mobile USA stake. But regulators might object to a tie-up, particularly given T-Mobile's efforts to shake up the U.S. mobile industry via aggressive/novel pricing schemes.
- Separately, Sprint announces it has expanded its 4G LTE network to cover 40 more markets, including Milwaukee and Salt Lake City. Sprint, which is trying to neutralize Verizon and AT&T's LTE coverage leads, now offers LTE in 340 markets.
Jan. 19, 2014, 1:21 AM
- SoftBank (SFTBF) and Deutsche Telekom (DTEGF) are attempting to resolve obstacles to Sprint's (S) possible acquisition of the German carrier's 67% holding in T-Mobile USA (TMUS), Bloomberg reports.
- Such obstacles include much cash and stock SoftBank will pay - Deutsche Telekom wants the whole deal to be in cash - how Sprint and T-Mobile would be integrated, and the size of a break-up fee.
- Softbank is looking to borrow $20B to finance the deal, which could value T-Mobile at $31B vs its market capitalization of $26B. Sprint would take on the debt.
- More Sprint / T-Mobile deal.
Jan. 16, 2014, 5:20 PM
- The WSJ reports Sprint (S) has "received proposals from at least two banks" for financing a T-Mobile USA (TMUS) bid, and envisions valuing T-Mobile's equity at $31B (compares favorably to a current market cap of $26B).
- Financing, of course, is only one of several challenges Sprint would face in merging with T-Mobile. The company and parent SoftBank (SFTBF) would have to negotiate a deal for Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGY, DTEGF) 67% T-Mobile stake. They would also have to win the blessing of FCC/DOJ regulators who seem to prefer having four nationwide carriers around, and appear to be pleased with T-Mobile's aggressive pricing.
- There's also the matter of Dish (DISH -2.2%), which reportedly won't stand idly if Sprint bids for T-Mobile, and could have much less trouble winning the blessing of regulators.
- In addition to acquiring Deutsche's T-Mobile stake, Sprint may need to backstop a possible refinancing of ~$20B worth of T-Mobile deal.
- S +2.8% AH. TMUS +2.3%.
Jan. 9, 2014, 2:42 PM
- AT&T (T -1.9%), Verizon (VZ -2%), and Sprint (S -4.4%) are each selling off after T-Mobile USA (TMUS -1.1%) announced a credit program for defecting mobile subscribers - up to $300 in credit for trading in a phone, buying an approved T-Mobile phone, and signing up for a postpaid plan, and up to $350 to pay off termination fees - that was even more aggressive than expected. Sprint is also being pressured by a Deutsche downgrade to Hold.
- FBR's David Nixon likely speaks for many on the Street when he expresses concerns AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint "will be forced to react to the move." Fears that T-Mobile's efforts will pressure industry margins and increase churn have already been running high. AT&T announced a smaller promotion (up to $450 in credit) last week.
- Nixon also says CES feedback points to "surprising confidence from T-Mobile US that a merger with Sprint could be approved if argued on the right basis." T-Mobile CEO John Legere didn't rule out a future acquisition by Sprint yesterday, though he did suggest T-Mobile's brand would be maintained post-acquisition. Legere also took quite a few shots at his rivals.
- Meanwhile SoftBank (SFTBF, SFTBY) CEO Masayoshi Son isn't mincing words regarding Sprint's challenges. In a Nikkei column, Son blasts Sprint's marketing efforts (all of the company's ad agencies have been fired), and says the carrier "has gotten used to being a loser."
Dec. 24, 2013, 1:33 PM
- The Nikkei reports SoftBank (SFTBF, SFTBY) is "in the final stages of talks" with Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY, DTEGF) regarding a deal in which 78%-owned Sprint (S -0.2%) would acquire Deutsche's 67% stake in T-Mobile USA (TMUS +1%). Sources add the deal could happen as soon as next spring, and could be worth more than ¥2T ($19.2B).
- A ¥2T price tag for Deutsche's T-Mobile USA stake would translate into a $28.7B valuation for the #4 U.S. mobile carrier. T-Mobile USA, whose shares have risen sharply thanks to Sprint M&A rumors, currently has a market cap of $25.5B.
- SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has reportedly been busy lining up financing for a T-Mobile USA bid, which is bound to be intensely scrutinized by regulators. Reuters has reported Dish (DISH +1.1%) is also thinking of bidding for T-Mobile, and wouldn't stand idly if Sprint made a move.
Dec. 20, 2013, 4:20 PM
- Bloomberg has joined the WSJ in reporting Sprint (S +6.7%) is trying to obtain financing for a T-Mobile USA (TMUS +4.7%) bid from six banks, and provides additional details.
- Bloomberg's sources indicate SoftBank (SFTBF) CEO Masayoshi Son has personally talked with banks about obtaining ~$20B in financing. His goal: To buy Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGY) 67% stake in T-Mobile in an all-cash deal.
- At the same time, Sprint's management is said to be "reluctant" to deal with integrating Sprint and T-Mobile's incompatible 3G networks; Sprint uses the EV-DO air interface, while T-Mobile uses W-CDMA/HSPA. But with SoftBank owning 78% of Sprint, their objections may be rendered moot.
- Also: With regulatory approval of a Sprint/T-Mobile deal far from certain, Son reportedly wants to avoid agreeing to a large breakup fee. AT&T had to pay a $7B breakup fee to T-Mobile two years ago.
- Separately, T-Mobile has scheduled a Jan. 8 CES event where it will reveal the fourth part of its "un-carrier" strategy. Part one involved the elimination of phone subsidies and contracts in favor of monthly phone installment plans; part two involved the launch of T-Mobile's Jump smartphone upgrade plans; and part three brought cheap global data roaming and international talk/text plans.
Dec. 13, 2013, 4:41 PM
- Sources tell the WSJ Sprint (S +4.3%) is "studying regulatory concerns" related to a T-Mobile USA (TMUS +8.2%) bid, and that SoftBank (SFTBF) founder/CEO Masayoshi Son is "driving" the effort. However, they caution Sprint hasn't yet decided whether to make a move.
- Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY), which retains a 67% stake in T-Mobile USA, is said to be "looking to possibly exit the U.S. market." Though Deutsche is currently prohibited from selling T-Mobile shares until 18 months have passed from the closing of the MetroPCS deal, it can sell earlier if it received an offer for the entire stake.
- Sprint and T-Mobile only have 53M postpaid subs between them, less than Verizon's 95M and AT&T's 72M. If they try to go through with a merger, they'll mention such figures to regulators early and often.
- But the FCC and DOJ, only two years removed from thwarting AT&T's bid for T-Mobile, haven't given any indication they're now comfortable seeing further consolidation among nationwide U.S. carriers.
- Previous: Sprint reportedly working on deal with T-Mobile
Dec. 13, 2013, 4:01 PM
- The WSJ reports Sprint (S +5%) could make a bid for T-Mobile USA (TMUS +7.8%) in 1H14. Both Sprint and T-Mobile shares have spiked in response.
- The FCC would doubtlessly give close scrutiny to a deal that would reduce the number of nationwide U.S. carriers to three from four. But Sprint majority owner SoftBank (SFTBF) hasn't been scared to make big bets.
- Both Sprint and T-Mobile's wireless subscriber bases are considerably smaller than Verizon and AT&T's, particularly with regards to corporate users. Sprint may be betting regulators will allow a deal to go through for this reason.
Dec. 3, 2013, 1:25 PM
- Sources tell Light Reading Sprint (S -1.4%), at SoftBank's (SFTBF) prodding, is preparing to move its HQ from Overland Park, KS (a Kansas City suburb) to California (no word on exactly where in the state).
- The site points out SoftBank has been "trying to move some Japanese executives to the U.S." since it bought a 78% stake in the #3 U.S. mobile carrier earlier this year, and that California is "a shorter commute" for SoftBank execs than Kansas.
- One Sprint employee talking to Light Reading says he hasn't heard of any plans for an HQ move, but does say SoftBank has taken far more of a hands-on approach with Sprint than was expected, and that there's "a lot of internal [and] operational auditing going on that's making employees nervous."
- SoftBank and Sprint have already announced plans to open a Silicon Valley office that would employ as many as 1K workers.
Nov. 21, 2013, 11:39 AM
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