Verizon reported adding nearly 1.2 million net postpaid connections in the final quarter of 2017 and 1 percent postpaid churn, which exceeded both its totals for the previous fourth quarter and analysts’ expectations.
The carrier’s postpaid numbers reflected 431,000 net phone additions, a total that included 647,000 added smartphones — up from 456,000 smartphone additions in fourth-quarter of 2016 — along with 193,000 tablets and 550,000 other connected devices.
Wells Fargo analysts had projected 320,000 net phone additions and 832,000 net additions overall, along with churn of just more than 1 percent, senior analyst Jennifer Fritzsche wrote in a note.
The nation’s top wireless carrier reported earnings of $4.56 per share — up sharply compared to the same window last year — but adjusted earnings were level due to $2.6 billion in losses attributed to “special items,” particularly pension and other benefit adjustments.
Total revenues, however, increased 5 percent compared to the same period last year to $34 billion.
Verizon officials also predicted that the recent corporate tax overhaul would generate $3.5 billion to $4 billion in additional cash flow this year, which also exceeded expectations.
Analysts from MoffettNathanson wrote that the company’s windfall under tax reform “is a stupendous amount of money,” but questioned whether companies that benefit from that legislation would ultimately get to keep that cash or see it “competed away.”
The note anticipated that Verizon would initially pay down its debt, but could then elect to buy back stock or consider mergers and acquisitions.
“We still believe they don’t need to do a deal,” MoffettNathanson analysts wrote. “But speculation about ‘what will Verizon buy?’ is inevitable.”
The company attributed a 10-basis point improvement in total churn to another quarter of low postpaid phone churn, noted that another 40,000 customer accounts were added in the fourth quarter.
Verizon added 2.1 million net postpaid customers, including 1.8 million smartphones, throughout 2017, and the company’s full-year earnings more than doubled from $3.21 per share in 2016 to $7.36 per share.
“Verizon finished 2017 with great momentum, led by some of the best customer growth and loyalty results Verizon Wireless has delivered in recent years,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said in a statement. “In 2018 we look to drive long-term shareholder value by deploying next-generation network services, leveraging global platforms such as Oath and using our strategic Humanability approach to turn innovative ideas into realities.”