Sprint Nextel Corp. shares fell on their first day of trading yesterday as the newly merged company declared a quarterly dividend of 2.5 cents a share and said the long-planned spinoff of its local telephone business would happen within nine to 12 months.
The Reston-based company said it had adjusted the dividend to reflect the roughly $35 billion merger of Sprint Corp. and Nextel Communications Inc., which was formally completed on Friday.
Before their combination, Sprint paid a 12.5-cent quarterly dividend while Nextel did not pay one.
In making the announcement, Sprint Nextel said the new dividend was in line with the annual cash dividends -- roughly $300 million -- the local telephone company is expected to pay after it is spun off.
It also said the local telephone company would have about $7.25 billion in debt once its spinoff is completed, a level Sprint Nextel said would be consistent with other companies with investment-grade debt ratings.
The companies announced plans to spin off the local phone business -- which was owned by the former Sprint Corp. -- when they unveiled their merger in December.
Wall Street analysts said company executives had consistently said the local phone company would pay a dividend once separated from the parent while making no promises about whether the merged Sprint Nextel would then do so. "This has been the message right from when the deal was announced -- that the wireless company would be focused on growth . . . and that the local business would pay a dividend roughly in line with their peers," said telecom analyst John Hodulik of UBS Securities LLC, which has worked for Sprint Nextel within the last year.
By the end of the first day of trading, Sprint Nextel shares closed 10 cents lower at $26.05.
Separately, Sprint Nextel said it struck a five-year deal to broadcast National Football League content -- including video highlights after games are over as well as live text updates, scores and statistics -- on its mobile phones. The deal does not allow Sprint to broadcast live video of the games because of the NFL's agreements with broadcasters.
A source familiar with the deal said Sprint Nextel had agreed to pay the NFL a $200 million fee over five years.
Sprint Nextel also agreed to buy $100 million in advertising on the league's Web site and its cable network as well as at least $300 million in ads from TV broadcasters that air NFL games, said the source, who was not authorized to speak about the terms of the deal and spoke on the condition of anonymity because they have not been made public.