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Sprint added 58,000 customers in Q4, but lost tons of cash & might rethink buying T-Mobile

Sprint had a better 2013 than they were expecting, but not all of their news might be good heading into the new year. The Overland Park, Kansas company has reported their Q4 2013 financial numbers, and were pleasantly surprised by the results.

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Better, but not by much

After estimating they would lose more than 350,000 customers in the quarter, Sprint was actually able to add 58,000 new postpaid accounts in Q4 2013, bringing them up to a record 53.9 million overall.

That number may seem paltry and significant up against the 1.6 million recent additions by T-Mobile or the 1.7 million additions by Verizon, but considering Sprint has been hemorrhaging market share for nearly the entire year, it’s likely refreshing for them to see.

Sprint also sold 5.6 million smartphones last quarter — 600,000 more than Q3 — which totaled up to 20.5 million on the year. That said, the influx of new customers and strong smartphone sales didn’t keep the carrier from losing money, as they let over $1 billion slip through their fingers.

So there has to be some highlights in all of this right? Well, they did hit their goal of covering 200 million Americans with 4G LTE this past year, though that number isn’t quite impressive compared to AT&T and Verizon covering nearly the entire nation.

Sprint also considers the rollout of their new Framily plans a success, though whether that will end up being a good long-term move for securing more family plans remains to be seen. It’s the latest move that has the carrier trying to match wits with T-Mobile, who has been knocking it out of the park lately when it comes to compelling options (something which has been reflected in the company’s latest numbers).

Moving on from Magenta?

Behind closed doors, Sprint still contends that a purchase of T-Mobile would help them improve their network and eventually get out of the red, but it sounds like they’re starting to believe that it won’t be up to them. The company’s plans to propose a buyout of T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom might be in jeopardy due to resistance from anti-trust regulators, and they could be close to backing out, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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According to them, meetings between Sprint brass and anti-trust regulators (namely those in the FCC and the justice department) haven’t been positive, with the two sides meeting more opposition than they were expecting.

Sprint’s argument is that it would be better for one bigger carrier to take on the two US conglomerates known as AT&T and Verizon, but there are concerns that the disappearance of even just one major player will severely damage wireless competition in the country.

T-Mobile is no stranger to failed mergers, with the company’s sale to AT&T falling through for the very same reason back in 2011. That particular deal netted T-Mobile billions of dollars in cash, assets and spectrum, and gave them the capital they needed for the aggressive 4G LTE deployment currently being carried out.

Sprint’s hesitance to blindly jump into a buyout proposal isn’t unwarranted, as T-Mobile would likely impose the same stipulations they imposed on AT&T. Losing billions in a failed merger attempt didn’t put much of a hurting on AT&T’s pocket books, but Sprint doesn’t have quite the same clout and room to work with. This past quarter’s — and year’s — results don’t help their cause at all.

[via Sprint]