Verizon ( VZ) is packing a punch that may catch the bears off guard Monday. Economic recessions aren't usually good for business, but the old-line giants -- Verizon and AT&T ( T) -- and their new line businesses -- wireless and video -- seem to be holding up solidly under the pressure. Last week, in a preview of AT&T's earnings, a source -- more specifically a buy-side analyst -- correctly predicted that Ma Bell would ring up healthy numbers. And as luck had it, AT&T beat profit estimates by a nickel, sending shares up 5%. This source also predicted the same for Verizon, and is now even more convinced that the New York phone shop is operating better than Wall Street expects. In view of rising unemployment, subdued consumer spending and the fragile credit markets, it's not exactly all coming up roses on the tech rebound front. So any sober-minded analyst would use a measure of caution when wading into predictions about Verizon. But there may be too much caution, says the source, who is long the stock because he thinks Verizon wireless business and sales of its FiOS TV and Internet service were strong. For example, Verizon added an estimated 315,000 new FiOS subscribers in the quarter, up from 303,000 in the fourth quarter, according to the source. Analysts have Verizon adding 284,000 FiOS TV customers in the first quarter. The biggest punch, however, will likely be wider-than-expected margins. One reason will be the amount of money the company didn't spend on capital expenditures, investments like network upgrades and maintenance. This has traditionally been one of the big levers telcos pull to bring costs down and conserve cash.
Verizon equipment supplier Juniper ( JNPR) said Thursday that its telco customers are delaying spending as long as they can. "They're watching their revenue streams towards the end of the quarter, and they're being thoughtful on which side of the quarterly boundary they want to see their capex investments fall," Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson told analysts on an earnings call. Pushing some big cost out an extra quarter might have helped Verizon nail its other numbers. Analysts expect Verizon to post adjusted profit of 59 cent a share on $26.3 billion in sales, according to Yahoo! Finance. And on the wireless side, Verizon is expected to have added about 1.14 million net new subscribers. Verizon reports earnings Monday before the bell.