Sprint Nextel Shares Jump to Their Highest Level Since July 2011

Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, rose to its highest level since July 2011 amid growing optimism the company can revive sluggish sales and return to profitability.

The stock climbed 8 percent to $5.39 at the close in New York. Shares of Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint have more than doubled this year.

Sprint, which ranks behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. in U.S. wireless customers, is benefiting from higher average phone bills, partly because more customers are using smartphones like the iPhones to download data. The company is phasing out its outdated Nextel network and expanding the reach of LTE service -- a technology that offers speedier downloads.

Some investors also are betting that there may be consolidation in the wireless business, with Sprint snapping up other companies, said Kevin Smithen, an analyst at Macquarie Capital USA Inc. in New York.

“Sprint has been boosted by several things,” Smithen said in an interview. “There’s also a sense that they will lead the eventual consolidation of the smaller players like MetroPCS and Leap, which will help them with deleveraging and also eliminate some of the competition.”

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