AT&T surpassed analysts' expectations in Q3 2021 on the back of customer growth in wireless, fiber and HBO Max. Revenues slipped 5.7% year-over-year to $39.9 billion but surpassed expectations of $39.1 billion. The results reflected the impact of the separation of the U.S. video business, other divested businesses, and reduction in Business Wireline revenues. These declines were partly mitigated by a rise in Mobility and WarnerMedia revenues. Communications reported a 3.8% rise in revenues. The Mobility sub-segment, with a 7% rise in revenues, recorded 928,000 postpaid phone net adds, 1.22 million postpaid net adds and 249,000 prepaid phone net adds. Additionally, Consumer Wireline (revenues up 3.4%) recorded 289,000 AT&T Fiber net adds and 37% penetration. However, Business Wireline revenues declined 5.2%. WarnerMedia segment revenues were up 14.2% year-over-year. The total number of global HBO Max and HBO subscribers stood at 69.4 million at the end of the third quarter, up 12.5 million from the same quarter last year. Additionally, domestic HBO Max and HBO subscribers rose 7.1 million to 45.2 million during the quarter. The average revenue per user (ARPU) for domestic subscribers stood at $11.82. Adjusted earnings increased 14.5% year-over-year to $0.87 per share, beating the consensus estimate of $0.79 per share.
AT&T announced its FY 2020 financial results on January 27, 2021. Total revenue in the fourth quarter was $45.7 billion, registering a 2.4% decline compared to Q4 2019. For the full year 2020, revenues declined 5.2%. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted revenues across all segments. Declines at WarnerMedia included lower content and advertising revenues partly due to COVID-19. Revenues also declined in domestic video and legacy wireline services, and Latin America was impacted by foreign exchange pressure. AT&T’s WarnerMedia division — which includes HBO and Turner broadcast networks in addition to Warner Bros. theatrical releases — was heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Adjusted EPS was $3.18 per share, as against $3.57 per share in the previous year.
AT&T's streaming offering HBO Max was launched on May 27, 2020. The new direct-to-consumer streaming service promises all of HBO, plus original content, and a library of movies, classic TV and film, fan favorites, and more.
AT&T laid out a 3-year plan that calls for 1% to 2% revenue growth a year with improving margins due to cost reductions. The company plans to grow earnings and EBITDA each year with free cash flow accelerating over the plan. In addition, AT&T also mentioned that it would review its portfolio and divest non-strategic assets. It also wouldn't make any major acquisitions. The company also plans to pay down its debt, buy back shares and maintain its dividend payments.
AT&T launched its 5G services in 12 cities in December 2018, while steadily expanding its coverage through 2019. The carrier's total 5G cities stand at over 20, ahead of other U.S. carriers. That said, the service is still in its early stages with limited handset availability and access being limited to business customers only. The company says that it is on track to provide nationwide, mobile 5G by the first half of 2020.
Below are key drivers of AT&T's value that present opportunities for upside or downside to the current Trefis price estimate for AT&T.
For additional details, select a driver above or select a division from the interactive Trefis split for AT&T at the top of the page.
AT&T is a leading provider of telecommunications and media services. The company derives a bulk of its revenues from its Communications business, which includes its wireless phone business, broadband and pay TV operations. In June 2018, the company closed a deal to acquire media behemoth Time Warner, giving the company greater control over content creation as well as distribution. Our model does not include historical figures for Time Warner prior to the closing date.
AT&T's Communications services units account for a majority of AT&T's value for these two reasons:
As of December 31, 2018, AT&T served over 150 million wireless subscribers, including both wholesale and retail phones and connected devices. Mobility services account for close to 40% of AT&T's revenues.
Mobile data usage has skyrocketed in the last few years due to the increasing proliferation of smartphones and related applications and services. According to Cisco, North American mobile traffic per user will reach over 8 GB per month by the year 2021, up from roughly 1.8 GB per month in 2015, translating into a CAGR of 37%. Voice usage, on the other hand, is trending lower. Carriers have also been tailoring their plans based on the monthly amount of data offered, while typically offering free unlimited voice and text.
The U.S. wireless market is saturating, with the total number of wireless connections standing at over 355 million and the number of wireless phone subscribers standing at over 315 million, roughly in line with the U.S. population of 319 million. It's likely that growth in the number of wireless phone connections - which represents the most lucrative segment of the wireless market - will slow significantly going forward. Carriers are likely to focus on retaining existing customers and winning over porting customers while driving an incremental upside from areas such as connected devices and tablets, M2M connections and wholesale services to drive growth in service revenues. AT&T for its part has been focusing on postpaid smartphone customers as well as prepaid customers while reducing its emphasis on postpaid feature phone users, who often have ARPUs lower than its prepaid ARPU. The carrier is also the largest player in the M2M and connected auto space in the U.S.
In June 2018, AT&T acquired Time Warner in a stock and cash deal valued at $85.4 billion, integrating its vast distribution network, which spans wireless and broadband services and pay TV, with Time Warner’s media assets, which include the major cable networks CNN and HBO and Warner Bros Studios. With the deal, AT&T owns a significant amount of high-quality original content, besides gaining some bargaining leverage in acquiring content from other companies for distribution.
AT&T could play a much bigger role in the advertising space after closing its merger with media behemoth Time Warner. With the deal, the company could be in a relatively unique position in the advertising space, considering its massive ad inventory from its TV channels, its large customer data sets from over 170 million customer relationships, and control over distribution channels that span pay TV, broadband and wireless.
AT&T closed its acquisition of satellite television provider DirecTV in July 2015. The deal should enable AT&T to become a key player in the content distribution space, across various platforms including mobile, broadband and TV. AT&T will also gain rights to content such as the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is one of the hallmarks of DirecTV’s offerings. The merged company will be able to offer a “quadruple-play” bundle that includes mobile and fixed-line phone service, high-speed Internet and satellite TV.