Telecom & Wireless

Why AT&T Earnings Are Better Than the Headline Numbers

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) reported first-quarter 2020 results before markets opened Wednesday. The telecom giant posted adjusted diluted quarterly earnings per share (EPS) of $0.84 on revenues of $42.8 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $0.86 on revenues of $44.8 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $0.85 on revenues of $44.2 billion.

Blaming uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, AT&T has withdrawn its fiscal-year guidance. In January, the company said it expected 2020 EPS in the range of $3.60 to $3.70 and revenue growth of 1% to 2%. Consensus estimates at the time called for $3.60 in EPS and $182.09 billion in revenue for the coming year.

The company reported 163,000 net postpaid wireless subscribers and a six-basis-point decline in churn among postpaid consumers. Service revenues rose by 2.5% and operating income was up 9.0%.

In the company’s entertainment group, AT&T lost 897,000 premium TV subscribers but posted 209,000 Fiber net additions. Broadband revenue rose by nearly 2%.

Randall Stephenson, AT&T board chair and chief executive, said that the COVID-19 pandemic cost the firm $0.05 per share in earnings. Without that hit, the quarter produced “strong wireless numbers that covered the HBO Max investment, and produced stable EBITDA and EBITDA margins.”

Stephenson continued:

We have a strong cash position, a strong balance sheet, and our core businesses are solid and continue to generate good free cash flow — even in today’s environment. In light of the pandemic’s economic impact, we’ve already adjusted our capital allocation plans and suspended all share retirements. As a result, we’re able to continue investing in critical growth areas like 5G, broadband and HBO Max, while maintaining our dividend commitment and paying down debt.

Earlier this month the company had announced solid liquidity and the preservation of its $2.08 annual dividend.

While the company did not offer any guidance, analysts are forecasting second-quarter EPS of $0.84 and revenues of $42.7 billion. For the full year, the consensus estimates call for EPS of $3.41 and revenues of $176.98.

AT&T stock opened up about 3% on Wednesday but quickly retreated into the red, below $30, in a 52-week range of $26.08 to $39.70. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $35.62 and the dividend yield at Tuesday’s closing price was 6.96%.