Why AT&T Earnings Drove Investors to the Exits

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AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) reported first-quarter 2018 results after markets closed on Wednesday. The telecom giant reported adjusted diluted quarterly earnings per share (EPS) of $0.85 on revenues of $38.04 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $0.74 on revenues of $39.37 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $0.87 on revenues of $39.31 billion.

On a GAAP basis, the company reported quarterly EPS of $0.75. Net income attributable to AT&T totaled $4.66 billion compared to $3.47 billion in the first quarter of last year.

Operating cash flow totaled $8.9 billion and capital expenditures totaled $6.1 billion in the first quarter. Free cash flow totaled $2.8 billion.

CEO Randall Stephenson said:

We’re off to a good start in 2018, both in growing our customer base and in building the world’s premier gigabit network. Our investment in customer growth and our integrated service offerings helped drive solid first quarter subscriber gains across our wireless, video and broadband businesses. We also moved quickly to deploy FirstNet, and we expect the buildout to accelerate as we go forward. Our fiber deployments for business and residential customers now pass more than 16 million customer locations. And we’re set to launch our next-generation DIRECTV NOW platform, which will offer cloud DVR and an additional video stream.

The DirecTV business lost 187,000 subscribers in the quarter, less than analysts’ estimate for a loss of 257,000. The DirecTV Now streaming service added 312,000 new subscribers.

AT&T reported total mobile subscribers and connections of 143.83 million for the quarter, of which 77.43 million were postpaid (contract) subscribers. That amounts to a loss of 78,000 postpaid customers, more than the 68,000 analysts were expecting. Postpaid net additions totaled 49,000, far better than the 194,000 subscribers lost in the first quarter of 2017, but less than 10% of the 558,000 net adds in the fourth quarter of last year.

The company didn’t miss any of its expected targets by much, but it did miss the big ones, and that’s why investors pushed shares down about 4% in after-hours trading Wednesday and why the shares remain under pressure this morning.

Shares closed the regular trading session Wednesday up 0.6% at $35.20 and traded down about 4.1% at $33.76 in Thursday’s premarket session. The stock’s 52-week range is $32.55 to $40.40. The 12-month consensus price target on the stock was $40.11 before results were released.