Sprint Corporation (S) is a wireless company that is going through a very important reinvention. Think about Sprint as a caterpillar, which wrapped itself in a cocoon and will soon re-emerge as a butterfly. At least, that’s the plan if you listened to new CEO Marcelo Claure during his first earnings conference call earlier this week.
Sprint is the nation's third largest wireless carrier, but they have been struggling with growth over recent years. The Sprint of tomorrow will still be a wireless carrier, but they also have the opportunity to grow in new areas, as other industries like automotive, health care, retail, hotels and others go wireless.
This represents significant growth opportunities for the entire wireless industry. One year ago, Sprint started to change when 80% of the company was acquired by Softbank (SFTBY) and CEO Masayoshi Son. At that time, Softbank started to invest heavily to transform Sprint. From there, Sprint and Softbank wanted to acquire T-Mobile US, Inc. (TMUS) , the nations fourth largest wireless carrier. When it became clear the US Government wouldn’t let that happen, Sprint had to start on a new and different path for growth.
Sprint's Journey Toward Sustainable Growth
A little over two months ago, Masayoshi Son of Softbank decided to replace Sprint CEO Dan Hesse with Marcelo Claure. Suddenly Sprint's growth track had changed. So far it’s been like pouring a glass of gasoline on a small fire. Flames grew, and now Sprint has to keep those flames growing. In the last couple months, Marcelo Claure has been really shaking things up at Sprint. There were plenty of questions about Sprint under new leadership, and there still are as we get to know him.
During his first earnings conference call this week, Claure did a great job of explaining to the marketplace the ways he plans to transform Sprint. Marcelo Claure calls this "Sprint's transformational journey". Claure discussed many of the early changes, which he has already implemented in order to turn things around. It appears that these changes – which the marketplace seems to like – are just the start.
One example of the big three carriers, Sprint now offers the lowest price for traditional, post paid service on the new iPhone 6. So apparently Marcelo Claure intends to make Sprint the lowest cost provider. With that said, I think we can expect to see much more change at Sprint in the coming months and quarters. Claure said he just arrived and is still formulating longer-term strategies. This makes sense. Sprint is complicated and has several areas of strength like wireless, and weakness like wire line. There is plenty to sort through at this company.
A Long-Term Mobile Market Transformation
So after listening to this first call with Claure as new CEO, I think the answer is obvious. He is asking for–and we need to give him–the time and opportunity he needs to transform Sprint. This is similar to what Meg Whitman is doing at Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ) . She continually talks about a multi-year turnaround plan and the street seems to be giving her the space she needs to transform the company. Turnarounds take time. Especially when the company and the industry itself has gone through major changes. You have to admit that Sprint and the entire wireless industry have gone through, and continue to go through, major changes.
The US Government says they want there to be a big four wireless carriers in the United States. If that’s the case, so far, AT&T (T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) have been growing the fastest and strongest over the last decade. Sprint and T-Mobile have struggled with growth during that same time. T-Mobile started their turnaround last year. Sprint is just starting their turn around now.
Just as T-Mobile has started to grow once again, and just as HP has asked for and is receiving the time it needs to turn around, I think Sprint should be given that same opportunity. Sprint has shown a good couple months in the marketplace as they are beginning their transformational journey. Plus they are still planning their longer-term strategies. So let’s give Sprint the time they need to develop and implement these new strategies and start their path to growth once again. If the US marketplace will have four top players, I think we can agree the marketplace would be better with four very strong and growing competitors. With all that said, it’s up to Sprint to make this positive future a reality and come out of its cocoon as a beautiful butterfly.