“We met or surpassed all of our profitability targets for the year all while investing at record levels,” said CEO John Stankey.
Updated at 9:56 am EST
AT&T Inc. (T) – Get Free Report posted better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings with a muted near-term outlook Wednesday, while adding that it plans to pay down debt as a top priority after meeting dividend payments.
AT&T said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in December were pegged at 61 cents per share, up 9% from last year and just ahead of the Street consensus forecast of 57 cents per share.
At $25 billion impairment charge, linked to last year’s soaring interest rates, pushed the group into an operating loss of $23.1 billion, AT&T said.
Revenues, the company said, rose 0.65% from last year to $31.3 billion, essentially matching Street forecasts, while the group’s standalone mobility revenues were pegged at $21.5 billion, up 1.7% from last year. with service revenues rising 5.2% to $15.4 billion..
Around 656,000 post-paid wireless subscribers were added over the quarter, the company said, just ahead of the consensus forecast of around 645,000, while overall revenue figures reflect the spin-off of its media assets into Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – Get Free Report last year.
Looking into the current year, AT&T said it sees adjusted earnings in the region of $2.35 to $2.45 per share, compared to a Street forecast of $2.56, with wireless services revenue growth of “4% or higher”, with broadband revenues rising by 5% or more.
Key to its dividend pledge, however, is its forecast for free cash flows in the region of $16 billion, a $2 billion improvement from 2022 levels.
“We’re committed to connecting people to greater possibility, and our results demonstrate that our customers are responding to this,” said CEO John Stankey. “Our consistent go-to-market strategy and the simplicity of our offerings drove continued robust, high-quality wireless and fiber customer additions in the fourth quarter. Over the last 10 quarters, we’ve demonstrated sustainable momentum in growing customer relationships, with 7.5 million postpaid phone net adds and 2.9 million AT&T Fiber net adds.”
“We met or surpassed all of our profitability targets for the year all while investing at record levels to bring the benefits of our 5G and fiber technologies to even more people,” he added. “As we enter 2023, I’m confident in the trajectory of our business and in our team’s ability to deliver profitable and durable growth for our shareholders.”
AT&T shares were marked 5.1% higher in early Wednesday trading following the earnings release to change hands at $20.14 each, a seven-month high that nudges the stock into positive territory for the past year.
Group net debt was pegged at $132.2 billion, AT&T said, while 2022 free cash flows came in at $14.1 billion, and $4.1 billion — after dividends — for the fourth quarter, indicating a payout ratio of 33%.