Clearwire's Loss Gets Bigger

As we wait on the new Clearwire to take shape, the "old" Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)'s first quarter numbers conform to a pattern that observers have come to expect from the fixed wireless operator -- a huge loss posted on the back of growing revenue and subscriber numbers. (See Clearwire: We'll Kick LTE's Butt.)

On Monday afternoon, the Kirkland, Wash.-based pre-WiMax service provider posted a net loss of $176.4 million, or $81.2 million on an adjusted Ebitda basis, on revenue up 76 percent at $51.5 million compared to a year ago.

Clearwire added over 48,000 net new subscribers in the first quarter to end the quarter with 443,000 users, up 72 percent on the previous year's first quarter. Average revenue per user (ARPU) nudged about a dollar year-on-year to $36.86. Clearwire said that this is because of increased use of its VOIP services.

The losses should be no surprise for long-time Clearwire watchers -- building out a new network and acquiring customers is expensive -- and the company has been burning through dollars for years now. For 2007, Clearwire reported a net loss of $727.5 million, an increase of 156 percent compared with the $284.2 million net loss for 2006.

One thing has changed though: The operator has reduced its capital spending in the first quarter of this year to $53.1 million, compared to $74.4 million in the same period last year.

The reduction in spending is related to Clearwire's decision to slow its expansion in the second half of 2007 and into 2008. Clearwire says that it did not add any new markets in the first quarter of 2008, as continued focus has been placed on "improving operating efficiency and profitability in its existing markets, and preparing to launch its initial mobile WiMax enabled markets later in 2008." (See Can Clearwire Do It? and Clearwire: The Big Spend.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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