Last week, in the wake of AT&T's (NYSE: T ) and Verizon's (NYSE: VZ ) earnings reports, I asked which of the two stocks you'd prefer to own as investors. Close to 650 of you -- or 49% -- voted for AT&T. Verizon raked in 40% of the vote.
Today, I'm asking whether this morning's report from Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) changes your view. Would you rather own the upstart than Ma Bell or Big Red? We'll get to the poll in a minute. First, let's review what Sprint said about its first quarter.
Revenue grew 3% year over year, to $8.3 billion, resulting in a lower-than-expected $0.15-per-share net loss. (Analysts had been calling for a $0.22-per-share loss, Bloomberg reports.) Free cash flow declined sharply because of working capital investments and a $100 million pension contribution. Taking all that into account, here's how the three major telcos compare financially:
|CAPS stars (out of 5)||**||**||****|
|Normalized net income growth||(10.1%)||Not material||(2.0%)|
|Return on capital||6.9%||(0.2%)||7.8%|
|Levered free cash flow||$8,736||$2,802||$12,570|
|Dividend yield||5.60%||No dividend||5.30%|
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
* All metrics calculated over the trailing 12 months.
^ Except for percentages, all numbers in millions.
Sprint still lags; it hasn't produced a profit and doesn't pay a dividend. But that's not the whole story. For all its financial foibles, customers still like Sprint's network. More than 1.1 million wireless subscribers joined its rolls in the first quarter, its highest haul in five years.
Investors are right to be impressed. Sprint retained customers and attracted new ones in spite of discouraging reports about the relative performance of its WiMAX network and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) efforts to win converts to the Verizon iPhone.
Does this make Sprint a stock worth buying? I'm asking you. Please vote in the poll below, then leave a comment to let us know which telecom stock you'd buy.