Saturday, April 26, 2014

AT&T Inc. (T) Q1 Earnings Preview: Price War To Hit New Subscribers?

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) will release the company's first-quarter 2014 financial results after the New York Stock Exchange closes on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. At 4:30 p.m. ET the same day, AT&T will host a conference call to discuss the results. The company's earnings release, Investor Briefing and related materials will be available at AT&T Investor Relations before the conference call begins.

Wall Street anticipates that telecom services company will earn $0.70 per share for the quarter, which is $0.06 more than last year's profit of $0.64 per share. iStock expects AT&T to top Wall Street's consensus number. The iEstimate is $0.72, two cents more than expected.

[Related -How Installment Plans Impact EPS Of AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)?]

Sales, like earnings, are expected to rise, growing 3.4% year-over-year (YoY). AT&T's consensus revenue estimate for Q1 is $32.41 billion, more than last year's $31.36 billion.

AT&T Inc. (AT&T), is a holding company. The Company is a provider of telecommunications services. The services and products offered by the Company include wireless communications, local exchange services, long-distance services, data/broadband and Internet services, video services, telecommunications equipment, managed networking, wholesale services and directory advertising and publishing. AT&T operates in three segments: Wireless, Wireline, and Other.

The cellular carriers have been going to it price wise lately, which could put the squeeze on margins in Q1; however, connecting tablets has been the butter for T's wireless bread lately. In 2013, Wireless accounted for 56% of AT&T's revenue, wireline data i.e. U-Verse 28%, Wireline Voice (landline) and other 16%.

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Now, managements VIP plan calls for YoY growth of 2-3%. Those projections could face some challenges. According to Google Trends, search volume intensity (SVI) is down sharply in Q1 2014 versus Q1 2013. SVI decreased 29.73%. Although SVI has led us astray a few times in the past, it is possible that aggressive competitor pricing is taking its toll on T, or that the company is holding market share while new subscriber growth slows, maybe a lot.

U-verse queries, on the other hand, grew. Search volume intensity for the keyword "AT&T U-Verse" were up 7.35% year to year. Considering the way T's revenue pie is sliced, wireless could be a drag if trends are predictive.

While Google Trends are headed in one direction, analyst enthusiasm is headed in the other. In the last 30 days, 14 analysts upped their outlooks with six doing the same in the last week.

Wall Street should be too far off the mark as the communications giant's EPS tend to hug the consensus estimate. In the last 16 quarters, earnings beat by as much as $0.04 and missed by as much as -$0.03 but, on average reported EPS strayed less than a penny from the estimate.

Overall: The iEstimate suggests AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) earnings will hug the consensus once again; however, Google Trends say T could be struggling to add new subscribers to the wireless business due to stiff price competition. Meanwhile, U-Verse could be the source of our projected surprise if SVI is true. 

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