Jul. 29, 2014, 12:14 PM
- "I’m skeptical it can be replicated," says Elevation LLC's Stephen Sweeney about Windstream's (WIN +12.9%) REIT spinoff plans. "It’s very unclear if other large cap companies can have their companies viewed by the IRS as real estate."
- UBS also has its doubts: It thinks AT&T (T +3.3%) and Verizon (VZ +1.8%) would have to open up their networks to rivals if they were spun off into REITs, something it doesn't think the carriers will be keen on doing.
- Oppenheimer's Tim Horan is more positive, albeit while cautioning Windstream's spinoff isn't a done deal. "If successful with this restructuring, and there are obviously high regulatory barriers, this will be a game changer for the valuation of non-REIT infrastructure stocks in our industry.”
- AT&T, Verizon, Windstream, Frontier (FTR +11.7%), and CenturyLink (CTL +4.2%) have pared their morning gains a bit amid volatile trading on very heavy volumes. AT&T has seen 66M shares trade vs. a daily average of 19.3M; Frontier has seen 89M trade vs. an average of 6.9M.
- Enthusiasm about Windstream's spinoff stems not only from the tax benefits provided to REITs - American Tower's tax expense has been halved since it converted into a REIT in 2012 - but also from the potential for spinoffs to spark new M&A activity.
- Windstream CFO Tony Thomas: "The REIT is going to be uniquely positioned to be in a great spot to help unlock value at other companies ... We have a good understanding of how the REIT opportunity could work in the telecom landscape."
- Earlier: Telcos soar following Windstream's REIT announcement
Jul. 29, 2014, 10:14 AM
- Windstream's (WIN +22.3%) plans to spin off some of its telecom network assets into a REIT (following a favorable IRS ruling) has lit a fire under U.S. telecom carriers, as investors bet more REIT announcements will happen. Some might also be hoping REIT spinoffs spark additional M&A activity in an industry that has seen plenty of it.
- Frontier (FTR +15.8%) and CenturyLink (CTL +8.1%) are also off to the races, and AT&T (T +3.9%), Verizon (VZ +1.9%), and Sprint (S +2%) aren't doing badly either.
- Other gainers include Alaska Communications (ALSK +5.2%), TDS (TDS +4.1%), and Lumos Networks (LMOS +5.5%), as well as Level 3 (LVLT +5.9%) and merger partner TW Telecom (TWTC +5.2%). Level 3 posted a Q2 beat this morning.
- Windstream's spinoff will feature its fiber/copper networks and other real estate. The company expects to retire $3.2B in debt following the spinoff (expected to close in Q1 2015), and to have the REIT raise $3.5B in debt.
- Windstream plans to have an aggregate annual dividend of $0.70/share following the spinoff ($0.60 for the REIT, $0.10 for Windstream proper). That's down from a current $1.00/share.
Jun. 27, 2014, 3:54 PM
- Carlos Slim plans to buy AT&T's (T +0.4%) 8.3% stake in America Movil (AMX +4.4%). After accounting for the spike in AMX shares that has followed the news, the stake is currently worth $6.4B.
- The stake includes 24% of AMX's voting shares; its purchase further solidifies Slim's hold over the giant Latin American carrier as it continues expanding into Europe.
- AT&T announced in May it would sell its AMX stake to keep regulators happy as it acquires DirecTV, whose Latin American reach is substantial and set to get bigger post-acquisition. The sale will also help Ma Bell pay for the DirecTV deal's $14.6B cash component.
Jun. 2, 2014, 4:43 PM
- Jefferies reports AT&T (T -0.1%) significantly cut its wireline capex starting last month.
- It thinks many companies could be affected, including equipment vendors Alcatel-Lucent (ALU -2.2%), Ciena (CIEN -3.9%), Juniper (JNPR +0.2%), and Adtran (ADTN -5.1%), and component vendors JDS Uniphase (JDSU -2%) and Finisar (FNSR -0.7%).
- As its is, AT&T's 2014 capex budget ($21B) is down $200M from 2013's spending level. Moreover, the carrier's huge mobile infrastructure needs and the DirecTV deal could be motivating it to cut wireline spend.
- Also: AT&T may be looking to keep capex down ahead of the full rollout of Domain 2.0, an initiative meant to improve network flexibility, lower costs, and cut provisioning times through the embrace of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).
- MKM has argued Domain 2.0 will be a negative for Cisco, but a positive for Ciena and Finisar, among others.
May 15, 2014, 1:56 PM
- The FCC has voted 3-2 to restrict how much spectrum AT&T (T +0.2%) and Verizon (VZ -0.2%) can buy in next year's huge low-frequency spectrum auctions.
- Sprint (S +3.4%) and T-Mobile (TMUS +1.9%) have both lobbied aggressively for restrictions to be placed on AT&T/Verizon, who between them have a huge share of low-frequency mobile spectrum (better for rural/in-building coverage).
- The decision shortly follows a similar vote in favor of chairman Tom Wheeler's net neutrality proposal - it doesn't prohibit pay-for-priority deals with content providers, but does seek comment on whether they should be banned, as well as on whether other neutrality regulations should be imposed.
- The FCC is also set to vote on a spectrum cap rule change for vetting mergers/acquisitions. Sprint and T-Mobile are hoping that one doesn't pass.
May 13, 2014, 11:00 AM
- Bloomberg and WSJ reports suggesting AT&T (T -1.3%) is close to a mega-deal for DirecTV (DTV +0.7%) (possibly worth over $66B after factoring net debt) are leading investors to bet Ma Bell won't be interested in making a bid for Vodafone (VOD -2.2%), something the company has been frequently rumored to be interested in exploring.
- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has already said "the window may be closing" on acquiring European assets, and has suggested he isn't thrilled with Vodafone's efforts to grow its wireline footprint via M&A.
- For his part, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao has hinted he's open to a deal, but has also made it clear his company will continue its wireline expansion strategy in the interim.
- AT&T, which didn't sell off following prior DirecTV reports, is off moderately today, as the Street expresses some concern over the potential $100/share price tag mentioned in Bloomberg's report.
- DirecTV (DTV +0.7%), meanwhile, has pared its AH gains and is now only trading near $88. Worries about regulatory approval might be playing a role; a Bloomberg source states AT&T and DirecTV are expecting a 12-month regulatory process for the deal.
May 12, 2014, 5:10 PM
- Bloomberg reports AT&T (T) is in "advanced talks" to acquire DirecTV (DTV) for ~$100/share - a 15% premium to DirecTV's Monday close, and a 29% premium to where shares traded before the WSJ's May 1 report about deal talks.
- The acquisition price values DirecTV at $51B, or over $66B after factoring net debt.
- Bloomberg adds that under discussed plans, DirecTV CEO Mike White plans to retire after 2015.
- DTV now +5.6% AH to $92.
- Earlier: AT&T/DirecTV deal could reportedly be announced in two weeks
May 7, 2014, 4:09 PM| 9 Comments
May 1, 2014, 8:01 AM
- Thanks to aggressive pricing and a slew of promotions, T-Mobile (TMUS) added 1.3M branded postpaid subs (1.2M phone subs), 465K branded prepaid subs, and 600K non-branded subs in Q1. The branded postpaid figure dwarfs Verizon's (VZ) 539K and AT&T's (T) 625K - the difference in phone adds is even larger - and compares with a net loss of 333K for would-be suitor Sprint (S).
- Regulators mulling a Sprint/T-Mobile tie-up are doubtlessly paying attention, and the same goes for AT&T and Verizon: The former has responded more aggressively to T-Mobile's price cuts thus far than the latter.
- Thanks to the strong Q1 numbers, which come after T-Mobile added 1.645M total subs (869K branded postpaid) in Q4, the carrier now expects 2.8M-3.3M branded postpaid net adds in 2014, up from a prior 2M-3M. Cash capex is still expected to be in a range of $4.3B-$4.6B.
- At the same time, T-Mobile's strategy continues taking a near-term toll on its bottom line: Adjusted EBITDA fell 26% Y/Y to $1.09B, and T-Mobile has cut its full-year adjusted EBITDA guidance to $5.6B-$5.8B from $5.7B-$6B. Adjusted EBITDA margin fell 400 bps Q/Q to 20%.
- Service revenue rose 4.5% Y/Y to $5.34B. Branded postpaid churn fell 20 bps Q/Q and 40 bps Y/Y to 1.5% (a new record). ARPU fell $0.69 Q/Q to $50.01. "Simple free cash flow" (adjusted EBITDA - cash capex) was $141M, down from $357M in Q4 and $239M a year ago.
- TMUS +7.6% thanks to the sub adds and a Bloomberg report stating Sprint has lined up financing for a bid. Sprint +6.2%. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY) is up 2.9% in Frankfurt.
Apr. 28, 2014, 4:32 PM
- AT&T (T) announces plans to offer U.S. in-flight Wi-Fi service courtesy of a 4G air-to-ground network leveraging spectrum the carrier already owns.
- Ma Bell says the service will be "available as soon as late 2015," and doesn't expect capex related to the effort to be "material."
- GOGO investors aren't pleased; shares of the in-flight Wi-Fi leader are down 19.5% AH.
Apr. 23, 2014, 12:46 PM
- Though investors aren't thrilled with AT&T's (T -3.3%) Q1 wireless numbers, Wells Fargo (Outperform) calls them "big time solid." The firm notes net adds and churn were better-than-expected, and thinks Q1 results suggest the telco's 2014 guidance is "quite achievable."
- Morgan Stanley (Equal-Weight) is less charitable: It estimates 500K of AT&T's 625K postpaid net adds came from tablets, and notes cheaper Mobile Share plans - launched following intense price competition and promotional efforts from T-Mobile (TMUS -3%) - led wireless service revenue growth to fall.
- Canaccord observes strong uptake for Next upgrade plans boosted subscriber adds, but expects the trend to moderate. The firm has cut its 2014 EPS estimate to $2.69 from $2.78 (consensus is at $2.71).
- On the CC (transcript), management talked up the ability of Next adoption to lower subsidy expenses, and mentioned U-verse revenue is now on a ~$14B/year run rate.
- Strong U-verse growth has narrowed AT&T's wireline revenue declines, albeit while pressuring margins. The company promises wireline margins (-110 bps in Q1 to 10%) will improve in 2016.
Apr. 22, 2014, 4:22 PM
- AT&T (T) had 625K postpaid net adds in Q1 (313K via branded tablets), up from 566K in Q4. Connected device net adds totaled 693K; prepaid and reseller net losses respectively totaled 50K and 206K.
- However, wireless service revenue rose just 2.2% Y/Y, down from 4.8% in Q4 (did price cuts play a role?). Meanwhile, wireless op. margin only rose 30 bps to 28.3% after growing 690 bps in Q4.
- Churn was at 1.39% vs. 1.43% in Q4 and 1.38% a year ago. Smartphones now account for 78% of AT&T's postpaid base, up from 77% in Q4 and 72% a year ago. AT&T's Next upgrade program saw 2.9M sign-ups. That contributed to a 52% Y/Y increase in equipment sales (pressured margins).
- Total wireless subs +8% Y/Y to 116M. Postpaid subs +4% to 73.3M.
- Wireline revenue fell 0.4% Y/Y vs. 1.4% in Q4; op. margin fell 110 bps to 10%. 634K and 201K U-verse Internet and TV subs were added vs. 630K and 194K in Q4. Total U-verse revenue rose 29% Y/Y.
- Wireline voice connections -11% Y/Y to 27.7M, broadband connections nearly flat at 16.5M, video connections +19% to 5.7M.
- $1.2B was spent on buybacks, down from $1.9B in Q4. AT&T is reiterating full-year capex and free cash flow guidance of $21B and $11B, respectively.
- Q1 results, PR
Mar. 10, 2014, 12:02 PM
- As European 4G investments ramp, "the window may be closing" on acquiring continental wireless assets, AT&T (T -0.4%) CEO Randall Stephenson stated last week at a Morgan Stanley conference (transcript). At the same time, he argued "there are still other opportunities" in Europe, such as those tied to the development of "global" SIM cards that can work with any type of device worldwide.
- Those remarks were highlighted by a weekend FT column declaring Stephenson had "poured more cold water." on hopes of an AT&T bid for Vodafone (VOD -4.2%). The AT&T chief has already been reported to have told investors further cable acquisitions by Vodafone would complicate a bid.
- Meanwhile, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao states recently-acquired Kabel Deutschland will act as the "core" of a wireline business in Germany and possibly other countries. He adds Vodafone's wireline ops will expand to include security, Web hosting, and entertainment services (previous).
- Colao was cryptic when asked about Vodafone's reported efforts to acquire Spanish cable giant ONO. "We'll see what happens."
Mar. 7, 2014, 11:19 AM
- Sources tell Reuters (translation) Vodafone (VOD -2.8%) has raised its bid for Spanish cable giant ONO, and has reached a preliminary deal with ONO shareholders collectively possessing a controlling stake.
- No word on the specific offer price. Vodafone was previously reported to have made a rejected €7B ($9.6B) bid for ONO.
- One source states Vodafone plans to formally present its offer before ONO's board meets on March 13 to approve recently-announced plans to pursue an IPO.
- Vodafone is selling off on the report. A successful Vodafone bid for ONO, coming on the heels of its $14.2B Kabel Deutschland acquisition, could lower the odds AT&T (T +0.3%) will make an offer for the company once its 6-month waiting period ends. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has reportedly told investors further cable acquisitions by Vodafone would complicate a deal.
Feb. 24, 2014, 6:41 PM
- Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) have confirmed that they, too, are talking with Netflix (NFLX +3.4%) about direct peering deals. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam says his company's talks with the streaming giant have been going on for about a year.
- Netflix shares closed the day with strong gains, as analysts argued direct peering deals such as the one just reached with Comcast could end up having a neutral or even positive impact on Netflix's bandwidth costs, given the company will no longer have to pay intermediaries such as Cogent (CCOI -6.8%).
- Dan Rayburn: "It should actually be cheaper for Netflix to buy direct from Comcast, and they also get an SLA, which also improves quality ... While I don’t know the price Comcast is charging Netflix, I can guarantee you it’s at the fair market price for transit."
- Others aren't convinced direct peering deals are a positive. The Washington Post: "Cogent has many competitors. Verizon's FiOS service does not. If companies like Cogent are squeezed out of business, it will make these already powerful network owners even more powerful."
- GigaOm: "These agreements aren’t transparent ... rates could go up over time, and they essentially act as a tax on the Internet."
Feb. 3, 2014, 12:02 PM
- Following a Q4 in which it saw disappointing net subscriber adds and intensifying competition from T-Mobile (TMUS -1%), AT&T (T -3.4%) has launched aggressively-priced plans for families looking to share 10GB/month of data between accounts while receiving unlimited talk/text.
- A family with just two smartphones still has to pay $130/month, but each additional smartphone costs only $15/month. One important catch: Like AT&T's recent shared data plan discount and a $200 credit provided in its T-Mobile promotion, the family plans require users forgo traditional smartphone subsidies. AT&T's efforts to pare subsidy expenses are a major reason its wireless op. margin rose 690 bps Y/Y in Q4.
- AT&T is underperforming on a bad day for equities, as are Verizon (VZ -3.4%) and Sprint (S -4.3%). While AT&T, Sprint, and (especially) T-Mobile have launched major discounts and promotions in recent months, Verizon has maintained its premium pricing strategy, betting its coverage and service quality will allow it to continue delivering industry-leading subscriber adds and margins. But fears are growing Big Red increasingly has no choice but to return fire.
- AT&T's latest move comes days after the carrier announced a $100 credit for each new line opened by a new or existing subscriber.
T vs. ETF Alternatives
AT&T Inc, through its subsidiaries and affiliates, provides wireless and wireline telecommunications services in the United States and internationally. The Company has three reportable segments: Wireless, Wireline, and Other.
Other News & PR