How Unlimited Data Plan Cost Verizon Shareholders

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Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) reported first-quarter 2017 results before markets opened Thursday. The telecom giant reported adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.95 on revenues of $29.8 billion. In the same period a year ago, Verizon reported EPS of $1.06 on revenues of $32.17 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $0.96 on revenues of $30.49 billion.

The company had no comment on the pending acquisition of Yahoo’s operating business, other than referring shareholders to Yahoo’s proxy statement released last week. The transaction is expected to close by the end of this quarter.

Verizon Wireless added a net 49,000 subscribers in the first quarter, and the company noted that the mid-February launch of its unlimited data plan “changed the trajectory of customer additions in the quarter.” Before the unlimited data plan was launched, Verizon’s net postpaid subscriber loss totaled 398,000. Following the launch, Verizon added 109,000 retail postpaid subscribers.

Wireless revenues totaled $20.9 billion in the quarter, down 5.1% year over year, which the company attributed to decreased overage revenue, fewer postpaid customers and “continued” promotional activity. Verizon’s network traffic rose 57% year over year in the quarter

At the end of first-quarter 2017, Verizon had 5.7 million Fios internet connections and 4.7 million Fios video connections, year-over-year increases of 3.3% and 0.1%, respectively.

In its outlook, Verizon essentially forecast full-year revenues and profits flat with 2016 and the company said that it expects improvement in wireless service revenue and equipment revenue trends. Capex is forecast in a range of $16.8 billion to $17.5 billion.

Consensus estimates for the full year call for EPS of $3.81 and revenues of $124.53 billion, compared with 2016 EPS of $3.87 and revenues of $125.98 billion. For the second quarter, analysts are looking for EPS of $0.99 and revenues of $30.35 billion, compared with EPS of $0.94 and revenues of $30.53 billion in the year-ago second quarter.

CEO Lowell McAdam said:

Our first-quarter results again demonstrated that customers value a high-quality network experience. To build on our loyal customer base and the third-party recognition we have received for network leadership, we extended our wireless and fiber network capabilities, began offering an unlimited pricing option and expanded our opportunities in new markets. We’re executing on strategies to capture future growth and create long-term shareholder value.

Shares traded down about 1.8% at $48.04 in premarket trading Thursday, in a 52-week range of $46.01 to $56.95. Prior to this report, the 12-month consensus price target on the company’s stock was $51.39.