EarthLink’s restructuring — bailing out out money losing citywide wi-fi projects and cutting off its investment in “virtual” wireless carrier Helio — hasn’t helped the Internet service provider’s long-term prospects. But it is helping in the short term.
EarthLink’s Q4 revenue of $282 million dropped 14% y/y, but that’s in-line with the consensus estimate of $281 million. And its EPS from continuing operations was 19 cents during Q4, beating the Street consensus by 4 cents. The ISP is still losing money: Last quarter, EarthLink recorded a net loss of $9.5 million, but that’s an improvement over the past year, when it lost $24.8 million on higher revenue.
The biggest problem: EarthLink is still rapidly losing customers. It finished 2007 with 3.9 million subscribers to its dialup and broadband Internet services, a 27% y/y drop. Churn, which measures the percentage of subscribers that leave the service every month, increased from 4.4% in Q4 2006 to 5.2% in Q4 2007. Last quarter alone, 626,000 subscribers left the company.
So how will EarthLink grow? In the company’s earnings release, management said that it has cut marketing spending because many of its newly acquired customers were leaving quickly. Now the company says it will focus on picking up large, existing customer bases through acquisition.
So: Who should they buy? One obvious target: Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL dial-up business, which is getting spun off. We’d love to hear more.
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