Tiny carrier MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) has lost any chance it may have had to compete with larger competitors T-Mobile, AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint-Nextel (NYSE:S). Investors have abandoned the company, depressing its shares from a 52-week high of $17.74 to under $6.50 — very near its period low of $5.53. Competition with the larger companies has begun to take a significant toll. The Associated Press recently reported that, “MetroPCS Communications Inc. says it gained a net 131,654 subscribers in the quarter, the worst result in years for the first quarter, which is normally the company’s strongest. It ended the quarter with 9.5 million customers.” The carrier’s first-quarter earnings were so weak that a number of securities analysts downgraded its shares.
MetroPCS often is mentioned as a takeover target. In May, several Wall Street analysts said that the company was in buyout talks with T-Mobile, which is owned by giant European telecommunication company Deutsche Telekom. This immediately gave MetroPCS stock a push higher. Later in the same month, MetroPCS shares rose again as the CEO of Sprint-Nextel said he expects consolidation in the cellular carrier market. Sprint and T-Mobile both continue to struggle because of their modest subscriber bases compared to AT&T and Verizon. Each needs more customers. While MetroPCS is too small to survive on its own, its buyout would give either company the additional customer critical mass it needs.