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AT&T (T) Q3 2014 Results – Earnings Call Transcript

This has helped us average nearly $20 billion a year in free cash flow and asset sales over the last two years and we expect to do the same this year in 2014. At the same time we’ve kept our financial house in order by funding a pension plan, making significant working capital improvements and taking advantage of historically low interest rates.

This is the heavy lifting our employees are doing everyday that you don’t always notice in the quarterly numbers. We are just managing for the short term or managing and investing for the long term. Now with that view, let’s take a look at third quarter results starting with our financial summary on slide four.

Consolidated revenue grew to $33 billion up $800 million or 2.5% year-over-year. This was driven by continued wireless growth as we repositioned our business model, solid consumer wireline growth, once again led by U-verse and continued growth in strategic business services.

Reported EPS for the quarter was $0.58. In the quarter we had $0.03 of cost associated with merger and integration related expenses. We also redeemed some debt early in the quarter to take advantage of low interest rates; both reductions in cost had a $0.02 impact on the quarter. When you exclude these items earnings per share were $0.63 compared to an adjusted $0.66 a year earlier.

Cash from operations continued at a strong rate and we also continue to find ways to monetize assets. Together, that has generated $32 billion in cash year-to-date. With year-to-date capital spending of $17 billion and about $7 billion paid in dividends so far this year. With all of that our cash position remains strong even as we continue to return substantial value to shareholders.

Now let’s turn to our operational highlights on Slide five. The third quarter was another solid step forward in the transformation of our business. This includes strong subscriber metrics in both wireless and wireline and continued growth in strategic business services. In wireless, we saw good in fact great trends in a challenging environment including more than 2 million net adds that included adding twice as many postpaid subscribers as we did in the year ago third quarter. Record low third quarter post paid churn, solid wireless revenue growth and improving adjusted service margins even with record third quarter smartphone gross adds and upgrades.

We also saw the continued transition of our customer base to AT&T Next and Mobile Share Value plans while also realizing sequential ARPU phone growth. In wireline, U-verse hit some important subscriber milestones. We now have more than 12 million high speed broadband subscribers. The transition phase of moving our broadband base to IP is nearing completion with about 75% of our total broadband base on our higher speed service. And we also reached more than 6 million U-verse video subs that helped drive strong U-verse revenue growth and continued wire line consumer gains.

U-verse is now a $15 billion annualized revenue stream growing at nearly 24%. In wireline business, strategic services growth continued at a strong pace. It’s now a $10 billion annualized revenue stream growing at more than 14%. With those highlights, let’s now drill down and take a look at our operating results starting with wireless.

We had a great net add quarter. That’s a trend we’ve been seeing throughout the year. Overall we added more than 2 million total subscribers led by postpaid and connected devices. We added nearly 800,000 new postpaid subscribers that’s twice as many as the year ago quarter, about 450,000 of those were tablets and computing devices with the remaining net adds, phone and some digital life.

And year-to-date we’ve added more than 2.4 million postpaid subscribers which also doubled last year’s pace. Another key point with our postpaid net adds is that we are adding these customers while maintaining high credit standards. These are rock solid high quality, new subscribers. These net adds exclude any migrations from our prepaid segment.

Connected devices also had a strong quarter as we started to see significant impact of the connected car with nearly 1.3 million connected devices were added in the quarter including more than half a million cars.

Churn turned in another strong quarter, in fact it was our best ever third quarter postpaid churn that follows our best ever churn in the second quarter and churn from Mobile Share Value and AT&T Next customers is even lower.

Total Churn for the quarter was up slightly to 1.3%, 1.36% reflecting a larger prepaid base with the March acquisition of Cricket. These are solid results in a challenging environment. We saw our competitive intensity pickup in an iPhone launch quarter with all major carriers now offering the iPhone and we expect that to continue as we move into the holiday sales period in the fourth quarter.

But we believe strongly in the quality of our network, our award winning customer service and the value proposition we offer customers. Our results so far this year show we are on the right track and we are looking to finish the year strong.

Now let’s look at revenue and ARPU on slide seven. We continue to see a shift in wireless revenues as customers sign up for Mobile Share Value plans and away from the traditional subsidy model. Total wireless revenues for the quarter were up nearly 5%, service revenues were stable year-over-year and equivalent revenues were up more than 40%. A take rate for AT&T Next was about the same as last quarter, about half of gross adds and upgrades. We also saw an increasing number of subscribers bringing their own device to our network, about 460,000 or 7% of smartphone gross adds were bring your own device or BYOD. That’s more than four times what we saw in the year ago third quarter and more than 1 million BYODs customers year-to-date.

We continue to have a large base of customers on discounted Mobile Share Value plans who have yet to migrate to Next. About 20% of our smartphone base is on Next, but about 52% of smartphone subscribers are on the non subsidy pricing. This means that there are about 20 million potential Next customers we expect to upgrade, that’s up from 17 million at the end of the second quarter.

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