BTIG upgrades Sprint rating based on valuation, potential iPhone 5 launch

In a note to investors on Tuesday, BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk raised his rating on Sprint stock from Sell to Neutral without indicating a new price target. Piecyk had previously set his price target at $3.13, but noted that the stock now trades under five times BTIG’s 2012 earnings estimate, which is below consensus. The firm notes that it is not moving to a Buy rating because Sprint’s stock may fall further still, due to uncertain earnings, high debt leverage, lack of free cash flow and a worrisome 4G strategy. Piecyk believes that Sprint “needs to develop a clear 4G strategy including financing or taking control of Clearwire.” While BTIG did revise its estimates downward based on lower potential margins due to increased roaming costs, increased Network Vision expenses and the potential need for increased handset subsidies, it notes that upcoming events such as the resolution of Sprint’s Clearwire relationship and the potential launch of Apple’s iPhone 5 could have a positive impact on Sprint’s performance.

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