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Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:44am EDT
(Reuters) - Shares in Sprint Nextel (S.N) fell more than 4 percent after an analyst report said there is an increasing risk that the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider could end up filing for bankruptcy as the debt-laden company faces steep costs due to factors such as its iPhone deal with Apple Inc (AAPL.O).
Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett downgraded Sprint shares to "underperform" from "market-perform" saying that the company will face "new and larger risks" if Apple launches a high-speed iPhone later this year based on a technology that Sprint's bigger rivals have installed more widely than Sprint.
"To be clear, we are not predicting a Sprint bankruptcy. We are merely acknowledging that it is a very legitimate risk. And notwithstanding a recent rally in Sprint shares, we believe that risk is rising," Moffett said in a research note.
A Sprint spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Sprint shares were down 13 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $2.76 in late morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange after the report was released.
(Reporting By Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)
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