There's a spring in Clearwire's (Nasdaq: CLWR ) step today, thanks to a preliminary report full of hope and nice surprises. But the stock is still beaten-down like a Redskins fan in full gameday gear walking into the wrong sports bar in Dallas. And the floggings will continue until morale improves.
Shares jumped as much as 21.5% overnight after the 4G wireless network operator shared "selected preliminary" results for the third quarter. Revenue projections of about $332 million were just a bit above the analyst consensus at $324 million, and operating losses will be smaller than last quarter's. A $700 million cash balance is a $160 million reduction from last quarter and about half of the year-ago cash and investment totals, so the cash burn is slowing down. That's good news.
But the stock has a long way to go before erasing the damage done last week, when longtime 4G partner Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) said it will build a competing network and stop leaning so hard on Clearwire. The stock got a 40% haircut that day and is still down some 35% in five days despite this drastic jump. That's a long way away from a full recovery. To say that the stock "soared" today would be like calling the Zune a "huge success." It's more like a headless chicken taking flight -- an involuntary muscle spasm.
Expect this boost to reverse course when Clearwire presents the full results later this month. After all, the company was free to cherry-pick only the good stuff here, and the cherry orchard got a thorough shakedown -- each of the four bullet-point metrics highlighted a record or improvement of some sort.
Zoom out to a fuller view and you'll see the bad stuff, too. For example, Clearwire's cash burn hasn't always increased the value of its infrastructure dollar-for-dollar, so its total assets are actually declining. Don't expect that trend to end anytime soon -- if ever.
All things considered, Sprint and Clearwire are fighting an impossible battle against the all-consuming market forces known as AT&T (NYSE: T ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) . If Ma Bell manages to merge with T-Mobile at long last, that would at least open it up for the underdogs to buy or sell each others' corporate bodies on the street, perhaps creating a respectable Franken-carrier as a third leg in the two-legged market. If not, well, it's a long way down.
I've already added an "underperform" CAPS call on Sprint to my all-star portfolio, and it's a mere oversight that I didn't do Clearwire as well. Mistakes were made. That error has been corrected.
Go ahead and follow my lead -- or, if you'd rather, go ahead and bet that Clearwire somehow bounces back against all odds. Either way, CAPS is fun, free, and exponentially more powerful the more voices join the chorus.
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