SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son joined Sprint executives on its earning call Wednesday to talk merger prospects, network performance, Trump and more, as the fourth-largest US wireless operator posted a narrower net loss for its 2016 fiscal fourth quarter.
None of the executives on the call would name actual potential suitors but made it completely clear they're open to the possibility of a merger. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has frequently been linked with T-Mobile US Inc. as a merger prospect, but Sprint CEO Marcello Claure and Son said they were open to anything.
"We're open to new acquisitions; we're open to merging the company... We're open to new opportunities," Claure said on the call.
"We are open to any kind of possibilities; we can be self-sufficient; we are not in a rush or anything," Son reiterated when asked to name potential prospects during the Q&A, which he did not.
Merger chatter about US service providers is going to bubble up much more over the coming months, with Sprint being seen as a prime candidate. This is in part because the quiet period associated with the 600MHz is over, and carriers are allowed to talk to each other about mergers and acquisitions. Operators are also widely expecting a light regulatory touch over M&A in the US from the new Trump administration. (See Could Trump Tax Cuts Cause a Capex Climb?)
"I'm just hoping that the government is much more open to any kinds of possibilities," Son commented on the call.
Sprint CEO Claure suggested that Sprint has other ways to help "attract new jobs to the US" too, specifically with the rollout of its 5G network in the future, although he didn't put a timetable on it. Sprint CTO John Saw said -- on a separate call later -- that the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has now added Sprint's 2.5GHz band as a candidate for the "sub-6[GHz] 5G band. (See Sprint Gets Ready for Massive MIMO, Eyes 2.5GHz for 5G.)
Son meanwhile promised that Sprint will further boost its 4G LTE performance over the coming year, promising that the operator would become a "number one or number two" data speed provider in major markets.
This is partly because Sprint is launching a new all-wireless, self-optimizing small cell that it will market as the "Magic Box." The operator says the tiny basestation, which will be free to qualifying Sprint subscribers, will boost LTE coverage indoors and outside on its 2.5GHz band.
For the quarter, Sprint reported net operating revenue up 5.8% at $8.5 billion. Sprint's net loss fell to $283 million, or a loss of $0.07 per share, from $554 million, or $0.14 a share in the same period last year. Sprint added 42,000 postpaid subscribers, or customers who pay for a monthly contract.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading