AT&T's Q4: Meets revenue, misses EPS, record smartphone sales

Summary:Despite a few losses and missed expectations on earnings, AT&T still had plenty to boast about from the fourth quarter.

In a departure from its traditional morning routine, AT&T reported earnings after the bell on Thursday.

While earnings expectations didn't exactly line up, the mobile giant focused on the positives--including record smartphones sales.

The nation's second largest wireless provider reported a fourth quarter net loss of $3.9 billion, or 68 cents per share (statement). Non-GAAP earnings were 44 cents per share on a revenue of $32.6 billion.

Wall Street was expecting AT&T to report fourth quarter earnings of 45 cents per share on revenue of $32.22 billion.

For 2012 overall, AT&T achieved revenue of $127.4 billion (up 2.4 percent annually), with non-GAAP earnings of $2.31 per share.

zdnet-att-q4-2012-1
(Screenshot by Rachel King)

Shifting the spotlight to growth and the year ahead, chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson commented in prepared remarks:

We grew revenues, increased adjusted earnings per share by 8.5 percent, and generated cash from operations at record levels. We used this cash to invest aggressively in the future of our business and returned $23 billion to shareowners through dividends and share repurchases.

Looking ahead, our key growth platforms--mobile data, U-verse, and strategic business services--all have good momentum with a lot of headroom. We're off to a strong start executing Project VIP, our plan to expand our high-growth platforms to millions more customers, and our 4G LTE network deployment is ahead of schedule, delivering outstanding performance.

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(Screenshot by Rachel King)

Here's a look at AT&T's fourth quarter, by the numbers:

  • Postpaid customer base now stands at approximately47.1 million -- up by 2.5 million from Q3

  • 10.2 million smartphones were sold in Q4. AT&T asserted that this figure represents "the most ever sold by any U.S. carrier"--presumably on a quarterly basis, as the statement was undefined

  • Smartphones represented 86 percent of postpaid device sales and 89 percent of postpaid phone sales in Q4

  • AT&T activated a record 8.6 million iPhones, with 16 percent new to the company

  • Without providing a reference, AT&T said it also had "its best-ever sales quarter for Android smartphones"

  • Wireless revenue was up by 5.7 percent annually

  • AT&T added 780,000 wireless postpaid customers--the mobile provider's largest increase in three years. AT&T also experienced a 1.1 million increase in total net wireless subscribers

  • The average revenue per wireless customer grew by 1.9 percent to $64.98

  • U-verse revenue grew by 36.3 percent, with approximately eight million customers total.

For the outlook, AT&T is expecting several big things in 2013. Revenue is projected to grow by 2 percent annually, with earnings per share "to be upper-single digits or higher."

Growing its national LTE network is also a priority, as AT&T promises to cover more than 250 million Americans by the end of the year.

zdnet-att-q4-2012-3
(Screenshot by Rachel King)

Topics: Networking, AT&T, Mobility, Tech Industry, Unified Comms

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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