As both Dish Network and Sprint haggle for control of Clearwire, the WiMAX provider Tuesday delivered up disappointing fourth-quarter results, proving once more that its spectrum is its most valuable asset.
Clearwire ended the fourth quarter with approximately 9.6 million total subscribers, down 8 percent from 10.4 million subscribers at the end of fourth-quarter 2011. Clearwire's subscriber base consists mainly of wholesale customers, which accounted for 8.2 million. Just 1.4 million were retail Clearwire subscribers, and 8.2 million wholesale subscribers.
The company's subscriber numbers reflect 9,000 retail net subscriber additions and 915,000 wholesale net subscriber losses during fourth-quarter 2012.
Clearwire said the decline in wholesale subscribers, which consist primarily of Sprint 3G/4G smartphone customers, is primarily due to the discontinuation of postpaid WiMAX offerings by Sprint.
Net losses for the quarter attributable to Clearwire were $195 million, or 28 cents per basic share, compared to $236 million, or 81 cents per basic share, respectively, in the same period last year.
Fourth-quarter total revenue declined 14 percent year-over-year to $311.2 million, primarily due to the expected year-over-year decline in wholesale revenue. Fourth-quarter wholesale revenue of $116.6 million was relatively flat compared to third-quarter 2012 wholesale revenue of $116.5 million and was down 29 percent year-over-year.
Clearwire is currently mulling a pair of offers. Sprint has offered to buy out the remaining shares of Clearwire that it doesn't currently own for $2.97 per share. Meanwhile, Dish Network has offered $3.30 per share for Clearwire but has stipulated a number of conditions, among them a commitment by Clearwire to help Dish roll out a wireless network. That offer is complicated by Sprint's current majority stake in Clearwire.
At the end of fourth-quarter 2012, Clearwire operated networks in the U.S. covering areas where approximately 137 million people reside, including approximately 135 million people in markets where Clearwire provides 4G services, slightly higher than the prior-year period.
Shares of Clearwire were flat following yesterday's report, trading at $3.17 in morning trading on Wednesday.