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Can Sprint Stand on Its Own With T-Mobile Deal Off the Table?

On Friday, Sprint (S - Get Report) and T-Mobile (TMUS - Get Report) shares popped on news that a potential merger was back on the table for the two companies. Earlier reports from the week had said the deal was off.

This on-again off-again rhetoric hasn't been good news for the stocks. Even with Friday's rally, T-Mobile and Sprint stocks were down 6.4% and 4.6% for the week, respectively.

On Monday, those losses deepened. T-Mobile stock is down roughly 6% to $55.40 in Monday trading, while Sprint shares are off 12.9% to $5.82. They could be headed lower, too.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure

KeyBanc analyst Brandon Nispel downgraded Sprint to underweight from neutral and slashed his price target to $5.50. The target implies about 8% downside. Before Monday's trading session, Sprint's previous 52-week low stood at $6.05. Nispel argues that competitive pressures should intensify within the industry, now that T-Mobile and Sprint are not joining forces.

Conversely with T-Mobile, Nispel reiterated his overweight rating and $72 price target. It's the best way to play the industry's growth.

Others aren't being quite as forgiving with T-Mobile, though.

The failure to reach a deal with Sprint caused Citi's Michael Rollins to lower his price target to $75 to $77, although he still maintains his buy rating. The target still implies 36% upside from current levels. On the flip side, he cut his price target to $7.50 from $9 on Sprint, which actually implies about 27% upside. He has a hold rating on Sprint.

Rollins said he's "very comfortable" with T-Mobile's operating momentum. But now that the two aren't merging, it should create positive momentum for tower stocks. Specifically, he says American Tower (AMT - Get Report) , SBA Communications (SBAC - Get Report) and Crown Castle (CCI - Get Report) should all trade higher as both T-Mobile and Sprint will need to pay CapEx budgets, rather than a reduced figure from a combined entity.

Nispel was also bullish on SBA Communications, upping his price target to $179 and reiterating his overweight rating. His target implies more than 15% upside from current levels.

Finally, UBS analyst John Hodulik weighed in. He cut his price target on T-Mobile to $70 from $80, while also cutting his Sprint price target to $7.50 from $9. Hodulik argues that increased holiday competition will hinder T-Mobile and could result in a "more tepid" guidance for 2018. He maintains his buy rating. Sprint will continue to struggle with high churn rates and margin growth, he says, but maintains his hold rating.

A combined T-Mobile and Sprint would seemingly be bad for Verizon (VZ - Get Report) and AT&T (T - Get Report) , yet both stocks are lower in Monday trading, falling 4.6% and 1.7%, respectively. Perhaps with four players instead of three, investors -- like the analysts -- view it as a more competitive operating environment.

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