AT&T beats Q4 targets, betting big on business customer base in 2015

In the Q4 earnings report, AT&T boasted it is "leading" the Internet of Things wave with 19.8 million connected devices on its network thus far.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Following multi-billion dollar acquisitions to expand coverage into Mexico, AT&T published fourth quarter earnings after the bell on Tuesday.

The nation's second largest mobile provider reported a net loss of $4 billion, or 77 cents per share (statement).

Non-GAAP earnings were 55 cents per share on a revenue of $34.44 billion.

Wall Street was looking for earnings of 54 cents per share with $34.26 billion in revenue.

For the full year, AT&T posted $132.4 billion in revenue with $2.51 in earnings per share.

Looking forward, AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson predicted in the report that the company's "largest revenue stream will come from business-related accounts, followed by U.S. TV and broadband, U.S. consumer mobility and then international mobility and TV" after closing the DirecTV deal.

AT&T announced its intended $48.5 billion purchase of DirecTV last May with the intentions of strengthening its mobile broadband connectivity. Such a deal would also give AT&T leverage to negotiate better content costs and add customers.

"Our transactions with DIRECTV and Mexican wireless companies Iusacell and Nextel Mexico will make us a very different company," Stephenson explained. "We'll be unique in the industry because we'll be able to offer integrated capabilities across a diversified base of services, customers, geographies and technology platforms."

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has yet to approve the merger.

The U-verse strategic business customer unit grew its revenue by 14.3 percent year-over-year to $2.6 billion for the holiday quarter.

Total U-verse revenue rang up to $3.9 billion in Q4, producing more than $15 billion over the year. Those results were fueled by 405,000 new U-verse high speed Internet subscribers along with 73,000 U-verse TV subscribers.

On the mobile side, AT&T posted more than one million new postpaid smartphones added in the fourth quarter and nearly five million in 2014.

For the current quarter, Wall Street expects AT&T to start of the year with first quarter earnings of 66 cents per share and $33.15 billion in revenue.

AT&T followed up with expectations of "continued consolidated revenue growth" and growing EPS in the "low single-digit range." AT&T also stipulated its outlook criteria was issued on a "business-as-usual basis without the impact of DirecTV and the Mexico wireless properties."

Earlier this month at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, AT&T's mobile and business unit CEO Ralph de la Vega unveiled a number of strategies aimed to tackle the Internet-of-Things wave.

Among them were the expansion of AT&T's VPN cloud link service Netbond and the AT&T Work Platform, a method for separating billing for employee and company use on employee-owned devices.

AT&T's most recent IoT forecast calls expects the connected device base to grow from 4.9 billion in 2015 to more than 25 billion by 2020.

In the Q4 earnings report, AT&T boasted it is "leading" the Internet of Things wave with 19.8 million connected devices on its network thus far.

On Monday, AT&T announced it plans to acquire Nextel Mexico -- the fifth largest network in Mexico -- for nearly $1.88 billion.

That follows up the $2.5 billion purchase of Iusacell, touted to cover 70 percent of Mexico's population.

At the time, AT&T outlined ambitions of establishing "the first-ever North American Mobile Service area" for U.S. customers calling or visiting Mexico, and Mexican customers calling or visiting the United States.

The cross-border network aims to eventually serve 400 million consumers and businesses across the United States and Mexico.

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