AT&T Touts Big Gains in Wireless Subscribers, But Slightly Lower Revenue


How you would you like to make a $3 billion profit in one quarter, only to be pooh-poohed by Wall Street as merely OK?

Well, if you made $3 billion, you might not care what Wall Street says. But that’s exactly what happened to AT&T on Tuesday, as it also reported $39.7 billion in revenue, which was down slightly from $40.9 billion in the year-ago quarter. Analysts were expecting revenue of $40.1 billion. As a result, the carrier’s shares fell more than 1.6 percent (as of 5:48 p.m. ET) in after-hours trading. They were off a little more than 1.1 percent for the day before the market closed.

In some very good news for AT&T, the carrier touted the addition of 3 million net-new wireless customers — that was nearly double the number that analysts had predicted (1.8 million). About 700,000 of those come via customers in Mexico.

Stockholders should take note that AT&T scored its best-ever margin for wireless services (50.4 percent). Postpaid churn was also tops for any third quarter, just 0.84 percent. AT&T credits the success to its strategy of bundling its video and wireless services.

Overall, the company said Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as the Mexico earthquake, took their toll on earnings. It’s also struggling with the loss of traditional cable TV subscribers, MarketWatch noted, but is making up some of that loss with DirecTV subscriptions.

“We continued to operate our business efficiently in the quarter,” noted CEO Randall Stephenson in a press release. “At a time of transformation in our wireless and video businesses, as well as investment in growth opportunities, we’re able to maintain our full-year guidance. Wireless margins and phone churn continue to run at record levels, our fiber deployment is helping drive broadband growth and DIRECTV NOW had another strong quarter.”

Looking ahead, all eyes will be on regulators who are closely scrutinizing AT&T’s next big acquisition – Time Warner – which will add a giant content library to its business.

“We look forward to closing our acquisition of Time Warner and bringing together premium content with world-class distribution to deliver a better entertainment experience for consumers and more effective targeted advertising,” Stephenson said. “We’re also on track to have one of the largest high-speed internet networks in the U.S., reaching more than 50 million customer locations with competitive high speeds. This expansion will make our bundled video, mobile and broadband services even more compelling.”

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