Thu, Feb. 19, 9:02 PM
- T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) gained 2.7% today (and another 0.5% in late trading) following its strong Q4 report this morning.
- In the company's call today, CEO John Legere stretched like Armstrong to make a technical point that TMUS is actually the third-biggest U.S. carrier: He says most carriers stop counting "dead" MVNO accounts after 60-90 days, while Sprint (NYSE:S) waits six months. So Legere says Sprint is overcounting by 1.7M customers and is actually behind T-Mobile.
- CFO Braxton Carter tells the Financial Times that the company's guidance (on the low side of expectations) is "conservative" and expectations are high: "We are still taking major flow from the duopoly (T, VZ) ... We are very pleased with our first-quarter momentum."
- T-Mobile should take a Q1 hit in front-loading customer acquisition, but it expects free cash flow to turn positive at some point this year.
- Aside from record customer growth (fueled in part by aggressive promotion), the company pointed to highly watched synergies with its MetroPCS brand -- projecting to reach full run-rate synergies of at least $1.5B by 2016. Net present value there is expected to be $9B-10B, up from original $6B-7B projection.
- That's finally "kicking in," says Craig Moffett: "Synergies from the PCS deal, a key driver of our bull case, are coming in sooner and higher than expected" and that the firm "has at last turned the profitability corner."
- Related: T-Mobile US (TMUS) Q4 2014 Results - Earnings Call Transcript (Feb. 19 2015)
Thu, Feb. 5, 4:35 PM
- Moving swiftly yet again, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) confirms its plan to sell wireline assets in California, Florida and Texas to Frontier Communications (NASDAQ:FTR) for $10B ($9.9B cash and some $600M in assumed debt). It would be Frontier's biggest-ever deal.
- Frontier shares up heavily after hours, +9.7%.
- Verizon will also buy back up to $5B in stock.
- Combined with a just-announced sale of cell towers to American Tower, Verizon should see the near-$15B intake expected, a vital step as the company must pay the FCC $10B this month to cover its bids in the AWS-3 spectrum auction.
- Previously: WSJ: Frontier close to $10B buy of Verizon's wireline assets (Feb. 04 2015)
- Previously: Verizon reaches $5B sale of towers to American Tower (Feb. 05 2015)
- Previously: FCC releases winners in record spectrum auction (Jan. 30 2015)
Wed, Feb. 4, 5:19 PM
- Frontier Communications (NASDAQ:FTR) is reportedly close to a $10B deal to buy the wireline assets that Verizon (NYSE:VZ) put up for sale in the aftermath of its $10.4B wireless spectrum bid, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- It would be Frontier's biggest deal ever. In Q3 Frontier noted cash on hand of $808M, debt/equity of 242.73 and a current ratio of 2.19.
- Verizon's also close to selling a package of cell towers for about $5B.
- After hours: FTR up 12.6%.
- Previously: WSJ: Verizon close to $10B asset sale (Feb. 02 2015)
Wed, Feb. 4, 1:11 PM
- Despite their CFO just last month saying certain customers would "leave us for price and we're just not going to compete with that," Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is cutting $10/month off the cost of most of its data plans.
- Customers have some flexibility but will have to opt in to the new prices.
- Verizon also said it would offer a one-time $100 credit to those coming in to switch from another carrier.
- Taken together, the moves are the clearest sign that VZ may feel heat from ETF-refund moves by other carriers, including Sprint's (S +2.6%) "cut your bill in half" promo.
Wed, Feb. 4, 11:42 AM
- Breakdown of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's op-ed on net neutrality: "Enforceable, bright-line rules" that ban paid prioritization ("fast lanes") and blocking/throttling of services, including for mobile broadband.
- The investment key for related stocks: "All of this can be accomplished while encouraging investment in broadband networks. ... My proposal will modernize Title II, tailoring it for the 21st century, in order to provide returns necessary to construct competitive networks. For example, there will be no rate regulation, no tariffs, no last-mile unbundling."
- FCC voting is scheduled for Feb. 26.
- Related stocks: (CMCSA +2.8%); (CVC +2%); (TWC +3.1%); (T +0.6%); (VZ +0.7%); (CHTR +4.3%); (DISH +2.6%); (DTV +1%); (CCOI +3.9%)
Wed, Feb. 4, 11:31 AM
- FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has released an op-ed hinting at the commission's new stance on net neutrality rule -- and it suggests utility-like regulation for fixed and wireless broadband.
- "This week, I will circulate ... proposed new rules to preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression. This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input received over the last several months."
- Wheeler calls directly for Title II authority in "the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC."
- Stocks on the move: (CMCSA +3.3%); (CVC +2.9%); (TWC +4%); (T +0.8%); (VZ +0.7%); (CHTR +4.3%); (DISH +3.3%); (DTV +1.2%); (CCOI +4.3%)
Sat, Jan. 31, 1:47 PM
- After learning which way AT&T (NYSE:T) went (high) and which way Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) went (low) in the 11-week FCC wireless spectrum auction, most attention focused on Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH): What are they up to?
- The satellite firm took just short of half of the available licenses (and saved over $3B by cannily working through small-business partners) but doesn't offer mobile service -- yet.
- Dish's fortunes in this auction were linked to those of Verizon, which is widely considered a potential buyer or lessee of Dish's spectrum assets. But Dish's Charlie Ergen has pursued wireless firms before (MetroPCS and Sprint (NYSE:S)) and may see wireless mobile as the next path forward from a slower-growing business.
- “I think [Ergen's] strategy is built around a confidence that spectrum will only become more valuable going forward,” says former FCC commissioner Robert McDowell.
- DISH closed the day out down 4.3%, slightly below where it was sitting before the auction results were released.
Nov. 24, 2014, 10:26 AM
- Citing higher spectrum and network investment costs, and the revenue impact of tougher price competition, Citi's Michael Rolling has downgraded Verizon (VZ -1.9%) to Neutral. AT&T (T -1.9%) is following Verizon lower.
- Rollins: "We believe the wireless industry is experiencing a great disconnect between the growth in data traffic and the growth in revenue ... We continue to fear that recent promotions create risk that the wireless industry at large may not be able to capture substantial incremental revenue from the rise in data consumption over time."
- Verizon has largely maintained its premium pricing in the face of major price cuts from T-Mobile and Sprint, but the carrier has been offering more data promos as of late. AT&T has been more willing to return fire, and has seen its wireless service growth revenue evaporate along the way.
- Last Friday: FCC auction bids hit $33B
Jul. 31, 2014, 1:02 PM
- France's Iliad (OTC:ILIAF) is offering $15B in cash for a 56.6% stake in T-Mobile USA (TMUS +7.3%) at a price of $33/share. Iliad values the remaining 43.4% at $40.50/share. Sprint (S -5.3%) has been reported to be planning a ~$40/share deal.
- Iliad says it has obtained financing from unnamed banks, and would also do a capital raise to help pay for the deal. One issue: Iliad has a current market cap of just $16B, less than T-Mobile's $24.8B and Sprint's $30.6B. Sprint has reportedly lined up a $40B+ debt package to finance a T-Mobile deal.
- A source tells the WSJ Iliad, which has upended the French mobile market with its aggressive pricing, views a T-Mobile merger as a "one-time opportunity to enter the world's-largest telecoms market."
- Iliad also thinks (perhaps with good reason, given FCC/DOJ remarks) regulators will be more comfortable with its bid than Sprint's, since Iliad has no U.S. presence.
- AT&T (T -2%) and Verizon (VZ -2.3%) have joined Sprint in selling off, as investors mull the possibility of a deal that would leave the number of nationwide U.S. carriers at 4. Concerns about Iliad's pricing history might also be weighing on shares.
- Related tickers: OTCPK:SFTBF, OTCQX:DTEGY
- Earlier: Iliad reportedly bids for T-Mobile USA
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. 20, 2014, 12:16 PM
- The NY Post reports Verizon (VZ -0.3%) is eying Dish's (DISH +3.3%) high-frequency spectrum, estimated by analysts to be worth as much as $17B. One source states early, informal talks have been held.
- Dish has been looking for a partner for its spectrum, which is particularly useful for handling 4G traffic in high-density urban areas. After Dish's Sprint bid was thwarted last year, Charlie Ergen has said he's open to a T-Mobile deal. But Sprint and T-Mobile are now eying a merger of their own (regulators permitting).
- Verizon has been dealing with a 4G capacity crunch in many big metro areas; the carrier is responding by rolling out 4G in the high-frequency AWS band. Buying Dish's spectrum would give Verizon more long-term headroom.
- Regulators probably wouldn't object to a deal, given Sprint and T-Mobile each have considerable high-frequency spectrum. But with Verizon having $110B in debt following the Vodafone deal, balance sheet concerns could get in the way.
- The AT&T/DirecTV deal fueled speculation Verizon will make a bid to fully acquire Dish. But Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam quickly shot down the idea.
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. 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. 24, 2014, 10:10 AM
- Verizon (VZ -2%) had only 539K wireless postpaid net adds in Q1 (549K total), down from 677K a year ago (720K total) and for once below AT&T's quarterly postpaid figure of 625K. Also, retail churn rose 7 bps Y/Y to 1.37%, and retail postpaid churn 6 bps to 1.07%.
- Those figures raise the question of whether Verizon's commitment to a premium pricing strategy in the face of a T-Mobile-launched price war is impacting subscriber adds.
- Nonetheless, wireless service revenue grew 7.5% Y/Y, nearly even with Q4's 8% and much better than AT&T's 2.2%. Wireless op. margin rose 210 bps to 35%, and retail postpaid ARPA 6.3% to $159.67. Verizon ended Q1 with 103.3M retail connections (97.3M postpaid).
- Wireline revenue fell 0.4%, as 4.4% and 6.4% declines in enterprise and wholesale revenue (caused in part by voice weakness) offset a 6.2% increase in consumer retail (driven by 15.5% FiOS growth). Wireline op. margin rose 10 bps to 1.5%.
- 98K and 57K FiOS Internet and TV subs were respectively added, down from 126K and 96K in Q4. Total broadband connections (FiOS or otherwise) rose 1.5% to 9M.
- Q1 free cash flow was $3.93B, below net income of $5.99B but above illustrative net income of $3.8B. Verizon is still expecting 4% 2014 revenue and EBITDA growth. Its dividend yield stands at 4.6%.
- Sprint (S -3.2%) and T-Mobile (TMUS -2%) are following Verizon lower. They fell yesterday in the wake of AT&T's report. Sprint reports on April 29
- Q1 results, PR,
Feb. 27, 2014, 1:19 PM
- Morgan Stanley has resumed coverage on Verizon (VZ +2.8%) with an Overweight and $52 PT, and JPMorgan has added the carrier to its Focus List two days after resuming coverage with an Overweight and $57 PT.
- MS' Simon Flannery calls Verizon's valuation "attractive," and likes its mobile competitive positioning. He suggests shares have been pressured by the impact of Vodafone's 1.27B-share distribution following the closing of the Verizon Wireless deal.
VZ vs. ETF Alternatives
Verizon Communications Incis a provider of communications, information and entertainment products and services to consumers, businesses and governmental agencies. Its two segments are Wireless and Wireline.
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