Sprint Nextel (S) 3rd Largest Wireless Carrier To File For Bankruptcy?


Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) has seen a slide of almost 5% today after rumors continue to spread of the wireless operator’s of an eventual bankruptcy, if changes are not introduced within the next few years.

The company has faced severe challenges in recent weeks. It is still without a competing fourth generation wireless product, the next generation in data transmission, that is already being offered by the company’s competitors. Sprint’s ability to provide the latest technology was hampered by a decision in February by the FCC to disallow partner Lightsquared Inc. to offer its product.

Last week Sprint ended it’s deal with Philip Falcone’s company that would have seen the company finally compete in the emerging market. Th FCC made the ruling after complaints from GPS providers that Lightsquared’s network interfered with their operations.

The end to that deal sees Sprint Nextel relying on its own ability to upgrade its network by itself, something which will take longer and require a large amount of capital to do. The problems in pbtaining the capital necessary would be challenging to begin with but the company faces a huge debt which could force it to file for bankruptcy.

It is the accumulation of factors working against the company that create the visible risk of bankruptcy in the future. In analysis done by Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett it is clear that the company’s debt burden is not completely overwhelming but combined with other factors, such as a burdensome contract with Apple, could be dangerous in the near future. If the company does not change its current trajectory there are certainly problems on the horizon.

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) release of their new iPad last Friday saw 4G come into central stage. LTE will be America’s next wireless standard and right now it looks like Sprint will not be able to provide it with any reasonable coverage or reliability given the company’s spectrum holdings. With the new iPhone expected to follow the iPad’s lead in this area and a growing number of Android devices opting for this technology the demand for connectivity can only increase in the coming years.

If Sprint does not figure out a way to provide coverage it’s service will be in much less demand and America’s third largest carrier could fall far behind the leaders. Combined with the debt maturities it faces in the coming years a Sprint Bankruptcy is not out of the question and investors are moving to agree with that sentiment.

Among the big losers would be David Einhorn, who warned only six days ago, that management was not running the company effectively.

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Paul Shea
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