AT&T missed Wall Street estimates with its first-quarter profit, and its shares declined by 4% in after-hours trading.
Quarterly net income rose 37% to $4.76 billion, or 75 cents a share. That was up substantially from $3.47 billion, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier. Still, it was well shy of the consensus estimate of 85 cents a share.
Total revenue fell to $38.04 billion from $39.37 billion, a shortfall the company blamed on a change in accounting rules and the ongoing transition of video subscribers from its DirecTV satellite and U-verse cable distribution units. Factoring out the impact of the accounting changes, revenue came in at $38.9 billion, flat with the year-ago period.
Declines in legacy wireline services, domestic video and wireless service revenues were offset partially by growth in wireless equipment and strategic business services. Execs said the first quarter often is the most difficult.
DirecTV Now reached nearly 1.5 million subscribers, adding 125,000 in the quarter. AT&T, the top wireless provider in the U.S., said it added 3.2 million new wireless subscribers, including 2.6 million in the U.S.
As interested as media and entertainment stakeholders are in the fundamentals of AT&T and the quarterly balance sheet, today’s earnings report is noteworthy mostly for the pending acquisition of Time Warner. The company plans to deliver its closing argument April 30 in the ongoing trial of the government’s lawsuit seeking to block the deal.
AT&T did not duck the antitrust case or the swirl of intrigue around the deal, which was announced 18 long months ago. A slide in the earnings deck posted online included headers that conveyed the mood at the company: “Trial wrapping up” and “Prepared to close.”