Kirkland wireless Internet company Clearwire on Tuesday posted a wider fourth-quarter loss than analysts had estimated. The net loss expanded...

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Kirkland wireless Internet company Clearwire on Tuesday posted a wider fourth-quarter loss than analysts had estimated.

The net loss expanded to $188.1 million from $92.4 million a year earlier, based on Bloomberg calculations. The loss per share of $1.19 missed the $1.08 average estimate in a Bloomberg survey of analysts.

Clearwire stock fell 40 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $14.10 Tuesday. The stock has declined 44 percent since its initial public offering last March.

The fourth-quarter loss and loss per share were determined by subtracting nine-month earnings figures from full-year figures.

Clearwire didn’t provide fourth-quarter net loss numbers, and spokeswoman Susan Johnston declined to confirm the numbers calculated by Bloomberg.

Founded in 2003 by mobile-phone pioneer Craig McCaw, Clearwire has lost money for four straight years as it invested in a network that uses WiMax technology to blanket entire cities with Internet access.

To cut costs and speed expansion, the company resumed talks with Sprint Nextel about building a joint network after Sprint named a new chief executive in December.

“This is a company with some significant challenges,” said analyst Christopher King of Stifel Nicolaus in Baltimore. A partnership with Sprint would be “very crucial from a financial standpoint.”

Clearwire added about 47,000 wireless Internet users in the fourth quarter, missing some analysts’ estimates and bringing the total at the end of 2007 to 394,000.

Churn, the percentage of users who scrapped the service, was 2.4 percent, worse than the 2.1 percent predicted by JP Morgan Securities analyst Jonathan Chaplin.

Sales almost doubled to $45.4 million in the quarter, the company said. Analysts had projected $46.3 million in revenue, according to the Bloomberg survey.

Chief Executive Officer Ben Wolff said on a conference call Tuesday that Clearwire had made “significant” progress in its talks with Sprint, the third-biggest U.S. wireless carrier. He said he had nothing specific to announce.

That may have disappointed some investors, said Pacific Crest Securities’ Steve Clement. “What the market is probably reacting to is that they didn’t announce a deal with Sprint,” said the Portland-based analyst. “The stock is really trading based on expectations around that.”

Clearwire’s operating loss, which excludes interest and taxes, widened to $160 million from $88.7 million a year earlier, missing the $151.4 million Bloomberg estimate.

The company boosted capital spending 32 percent to $82.7 million in the quarter, while expenses for leasing airwaves more than quadrupled to $39.9 million. Selling costs and other expenses jumped 40 percent to $101.2 million.

In the mid-1980s, McCaw put together McCaw Cellular Communications, the first nationwide mobile-phone network in the U.S. He sold that Kirkland company to AT&T in 1994 for $11.5 billion.

McCaw is again seeking to lure customers away from the dominant phone companies with new technology. The partnership with Sprint would compete with upgraded networks operated by the two biggest U.S. mobile carriers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Clearwire reiterated its full-year sales forecast of as much as $215 million, with customers totaling up to 530,000 by year-end.

Clearwire’s results
Dollar figures in thousands, except per share; parentheses denote losses.

* Clearwire did not provide fourth-quarter net loss figures; Bloomberg News supplied estimates

Dec. 31 %
4th QTR 2007 2006 CHG
Profit * ($188,100) ($92,400) -104
Per share * (1.19) NA 0.0
Revenue $45,384 $23,743 +91.1
ANNUAL 2007 2006 CHG
Profit ($727,466) ($284,203) -156
Per share (4.58) (2.93) -56.3
Revenue 151,440 100,181 +51.2