AT&T 4Q16 earnings slip, but outlook bright under new FCC chair

Ajit Pai will helm the FCC and make everything better.

President Donald Trump has tapped the current Republican commissioner to replace now-former chairman Tom Wheeler. Pai’s traditionally been lax on regulation — including on net neutrality — and laissez-faire on the telecom industry in general. In addition, Trump has been interested in driving down corporate taxes.

All of this leads AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to believe that his company’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner will pass scrutiny (even though the Donald has spoken out against it) and that the company will be able to derive better profit through at least the next four years.

“The president had a very specific agenda in terms of what he thought was critical, and that was tax reform and regulatory reform,” Stephenson said on a conference call. “And we spoke at length about each of those. So I left with a degree of optimism.”

The conference call had an upbeat tone, but results from AT&T’s fourth quarter weren’t as juiced. DIRECTV NOW is malfunctioning here and there and the company’s Mobility unit continues to lose subscribers.

Returns for investors crept up to 66 cents a share, as expected, but overall revenue fell by 0.6 percent from 2015 levels to $41.84 billion. Operating expenses were the biggest racked in at least the past couple of years.

For the fiscal year ending on the last calendar day of the 2016, consumer mobility revenue dipped 5.3 percent, though there was a more negligible decrease in operating income year-to-year. In Q4, service revenue tumbled to $6.73 billion.

Year-to-year, AT&T lost 1.3 percent of its total connections, now marked at 94.1 million. The company lost postpaid every quarter of last year faster than it could regain in its prepaid operations. Reseller connections are also dropping precipitously. Total churn ran up to a two-year peak of 2.43 percent.

Shares of T inched a fraction of after the report was released.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.