SK Telecom courting Sprint, but is it a love match?

According to published reports Sprint is being wooed by SK Telecom — a Korean company who previously courted the third-place carrier with a $5B buy-in offer last November and was politely turned down.

The current courting could be a full acquisition or just a technology buy-in proposition depending on what paper you read today.

For its part Sprint said today it “doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

No one does if they’ve got any kind of business background.

After all Sun gave a similar response yesterday about rumors it was being sold and or possibly spinning off a storage business and potentially tanking a Sun-built technology.

The thing is, Sprint’s stock took a healthy jump initially late yesterday at the rumor. Today it’s actually down a teensy bit.

I’m not going to begin pontificating on stock movements but I think such a swift reply by the market could be an indicator Sprint is getting much more attention these days given its new leadership, new marketing and recent news about customer service improvements.

It’s a company taking action and making change.

CEO Dan Hesse, who took the helm in January, is known for turning companies around. He did it for an AT&T business, another company called Embarq and another company called Terabeam.

In several published interviews since taking the helm all Hesse has talked about is improving customer service as Sprint’s churn rate reported in first quarter results was a bit chilling: total wireless subscribers declined by 1.09 million and revenues were down 8 percent over year to year.

Yes, one of the first things Hesse did was to reduce labor — 4,000 jobs.

But he’s also undertaken “a complete review of all of our operations and strategic planning” in an effort to streamline and get faster, quicker and better. He’s also made customer service the top item on every meeting agenda as well as implemented some big changes in customer retention including:

– reaching out to new customers during the 2nd, 5th and 12th months as a “check in” to ensure the customer is satisfied and has no unresolved issues

– monitoring new customers��� wireless usage in first six months of service and letting customers know right away about significant excess voice, text or data overage charges so they can either change plans or cellular behavior

– implementing an automatic alert that sends customers a confirmation email or text when there has been a price plan, a bill cycle change or an adjustment

And then of course the new Simply Everything plan — a compelling package of data and voice at a pretty compelling price.

Not for nothing, but that’s just a few things that have come into play in a short six months.

So maybe it isn’t surprising SK Telecom has come back around looking at Sprint.

I think the smartest thing they could do though is wait another six months given the possibilities Hesse brings to the table.

Yes a better company draws a higher price, but a better company has a better chance to thrive and survive in what has to be one of the most cut-throat industries the US has seen in awhile.

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