Under CEO John Legere, T-Mobile US has measured itself by subscriber count more than any other metric. So after adding 2.3 million customers in the third quarter, one could expect Legere to be ecstatic.
“We absolutely kicked the s*** out of the industry,” he said last night at a Re/code event. “Headline of the earnings is, Q3: we added 2.35 million additions. We’ve added 10 million customers in 6 quarters and 6.2 million so far this year.”
What Legere talked less about was that T-Mobile lost money last quarter and didn’t meet analysts’ earnings expectations. Revenue jumped 9.9 percent over the last year to $7.35 billion, but analysts were expecting a 16 percent jump. Furthermore, T-Mobile was expected to follow up a $391 million second-quarter profit with earnings of 5 cents per share. Instead, T-Mobile reported a net loss of $93 million, or 12 cents per share.
The losses, CFO Braxton Carter said Tuesday morning in an earnings call, are the cost of facilitating industry-leading growth. For example, the company spent $1.131 billion on property and equipment, a significant jump over the $940 million in the second quarter.
Executives at Tuesday’s conference call were unfazed by the uptick in expenses. A source of optimism was a 4.2 percent year-over-year increase in average billings per user, which Legere said indicated increasing customer support of his Un-carrier marketing. T-Mobile reported average billings per user of $61.59.
The billings increase signals T-Mobile isn’t attempting to be a price leader in the industry. Mike Seivert, T-Mobile’s CMO, compared his company’s strategy with that of Sprint, which brands itself as the lowest-cost major wireless provider.
“Sprint came in with a scorched-earth pricing model, but I don’t think customers are willing to trade off service for scorched earth prices,” he said. “We’re trying to find that balance of what customers are willing to pay and what services they want.”
Profitability remains elusive, but T-Mobile’s growth continues to carry the company. After the quarter ending Sept. 30, T-Mobile had nearly 53 million customers, and its growth rate continues to surpass that of Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. Legere’s goal is to overtake Sprint and become the third-largest wireless carrier by the end of 2014. Sprint had just over 53 million customers at the end of its fiscal first quarter. It will announce Quarter 2 earnings next week.