AT&T (T - Get Report) shares edged lower Thursday as CFO John Stephens reiterated the company's near-term earnings forecasts, while highlighting its plans to extract more value from TimeWarner, following Elliott Management's criticism earlier this week.
Speaking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment event in Los Angeles, Stephens said that while he was pleased with the group's first half performance, which included a 2.6% gain in wireless services revenues and a 4% rise in earnings from its entertainment division, "some trends" would likely affect revenue generation in the current quarter.
WarnerMedia revenues could fall by around $400 million from last year, Stephens said, thanks to a "tough comparison to a number of second-half 2018 hit movies at Warner Bros. ... but with no overall impact to the company's 2019 EPS guidance", while wireless equipment revenues are likely to be lower "driven by continued low upgrade rates."
AT&T shares were marked 1% lower Thursday to change hands at $38.34 each, a move that trims the stock's year-to-date gain to around 35%.
Earlier this week, AT&T was rocked by news that activist investors Elliott Management had built a a $3.2 billion stake in the company and criticized executives for having "yet to articulate" the benefits of its June 2018 acquisition of Time Warner, which added $40 billion to the already-troubling $140 billion in obligations in its balance sheet.
"AT&T's Board and management team firmly believe that the focused and successful execution of our strategy is the best path forward to create long-term value for shareholders," the company said in a statement. "This strategy is driven by the unique portfolio of valuable businesses we've assembled across communications networks and media and entertainment, and as Elliott points out, is the foundation for significant value creation."
Elliott said AT&T's total shareholder returns (TSR) have lagged the broader S& 500 benchmark by "well over 100 percentage points", and noted its crash out from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2015.
"Unfortunately for shareholders and the millions of current and former employees who own shares in AT&T as part of their remuneration or pension, this underperformance has been both profound and persistent," Elliott said.
"AT&T's TSR has underperformed across all relevant benchmarks and timeframes for more than 10 years, with the exception of a small catch-up over the last year following the Company's 27% share price decline in 2018 and coinciding with Elliott's large purchases of stock," the fund added.
AT&T said many of the actions Elliott outlined in its letter were already being addressed by the company, but noted it looked forward to "engaging" with the fund.