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Sprint Chairman: Share Value Disappointing, Defends IPhone Deal

By Greg Bensinger Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) Chairman James Hance said the board of directors was disappointed with the carrier's share performance and defended the deal with Apple Inc. (AAPL) to buy at least $15.5 billion worth of iPhones over the next several years. "The stock is not where we want it to be," Hance said at the company's annual meeting Tuesday. "Your frustrations are keenly felt." Sprint's share price fell 45% last year, though it gained 6.8% this year through May 14. Hance said Sprint's iPhone deal was necessary to compete with larger rivals AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless. Sprint, which began offering the popular smartphone for the first time in October, has said it won't make a profit on the deal until 2015. Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse agreed this month to cut $3.25 million from his compensation package after shareholders complained that the formula to determine his pay package didn't account for the hefty upfront expense of carrying the iPhone, which has some of the highest subsidies in the industry. Before that, the company had agreed to boost Hesse's 2011 total pay by 31% to $11.9 million. Hesse told shareholders Tuesday that the iPhone helped limit customer turnover, provide protection against litigation over Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android operating software, and allowed it to trim a costly loyalty program put in place to prevent customers from leaving for other carriers offering the device. -By Greg Bensinger, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-4676; greg.bensinger@dowjones.com

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