UPDATE, 6:45 AM: CFO Fran Shammo, the only Verizon exec on today’s call with analysts, blasted commentators who said yesterday that the telecom giant was forced announce that it will auction off some of its airwave spectrum — if the government approves its deal to buy licenses held by Comcast and other cable companies. “This is nothing near a fire sale,” he says. If Verizon doesn’t like the offers it receives “then we won’t go through with the sale.” He also denied charges that the company was forced to sell the spectrum “because we ran into a roadblock at the FCC,” which — along with the Justice Department — must approve the cable deal in order for it to close. “We’re being good stewards” of the publicly owned airwaves, he said. Most of the questions dealt with Verizon’s growing smartphone and wireless data business. The company says it now offers its speedy 4G LTE service in 230 markets, about two-thirds of the country. About 9.1% of its wireless customers have 4G devices, up from 0.6% a year ago. While Shammo steered clear of specifics about the earnings hit Verizon takes for subsidizing iPhones, he says that the company is supporting Microsoft’s effort to build what he called “a third ecosystem” for Windows-powered mobile devices in addition to Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Android systems. He’s bullish about tablet sales: Verizon sold 390,000 in Q1, up 60% vs the same period last year, but probably can improve on that. There was a slowdown in anticipation of the roll out of the new iPad, which was only available for two weeks in the period.
PREVIOUS, 4:45 AM: We’ll have to wait a little while to hear whether Verizon has anything to say about some of the most interesting items on its agenda including its spectrum deal with cable operators and streaming plans with Redbox. But while investors wait, they probably won’t mind looking at the latest financial news: The telecom company reported Q1 net income of $3.9B, up 19.7% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $28.2B, up 4.6%. The revenue figure was in line with analyst forecasts. But earnings, at 59 cents a share, beat by a penny the consensus expectation. Verizon says that it picked up 180,000 FiOS video customers in the quarter, bringing its total to 4.4M. Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless gained 734,000 retail customers, for a total of 93.0M. Those gains were somewhat offset by the 6.9% drop in Verizon’s wireline voice customers, to 23.7M. CEO Lowell McAdam says the results show that “we continue to execute in the key growth areas of our business” and vowed to “improve Wireline margins for the full year.” Verizon shares are up slightly in pre-market trading.