Sprint Shows Progress, Wall Street In Love

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Updated. Dan Hesse’s turnaround of Sprint Nextel (S) is still far from finished. But the no. 3 wireless provider is showing some progress. And Wall Street is loving it: Sprint shares are up 27% today to $3.45.

What changed? Some metrics are showing improvements in Sprint’s mobile phone business.

For example, gross “post-paid” subscriber growth — high value subscribers who sign long-term contracts and pay monthly bills — has stabilised. Sprint’s subscriber retention improved, too: Its churn rate dropped to 2.16% from 2.29% a year ago.

The company said almost 10% of its post-paid subscribers upgraded their phones during the quarter, meaning they had to renew long-term contracts.

Sprint expects subscriber losses to improve in 2009 versus 2008, Hesse said on the company’s earnings call. Looking ahead, Sprint should get a lot of attention for Palm’s (PALM) forthcoming Pre smartphone — a Sprint exclusive due in the next few months.

There’s still a lot of work left: Sprint lost 1.3 million net subscribers in Q4, including 1.1 million post-paid subscribers and 314,000 pre-paid subscribers. The company posted $8.4 billion in revenue, below the Street consensus of $8.6 billion.

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