Verizon Communications Management Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Verizon Communications (VZ)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 19, 2012 8:30 am ET

Executives

John N. Doherty - Senior Vice President of Investor Relations

Francis J. Shammo - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Analysts

Jason Armstrong - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

John C. Hodulik - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Simon Flannery - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Philip Cusick - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Michael Rollins - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

David W. Barden - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Timothy K. Horan - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

Michael McCormack - Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division

Brett Feldman - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good morning, and welcome to the Verizon First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Today's conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. It is now my pleasure to turn the call over to your host, Mr. John Doherty, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations for Verizon.

John N. Doherty

Thanks, Brad. Good morning, and welcome to our first quarter 2012 earnings conference call. Thanks for joining us this morning. I'm John Doherty. With me this morning is our Chief Financial Officer, Fran Shammo.

Before we get started, let me remind you that our earnings release, financial and operating information, the investor quarterly and the presentation slides are available on our Investor Relations website. This call is being webcast. If you would like to listen to a replay, you can do so from our website.

I would also like to draw your attention to our Safe Harbor statement. Information in this presentation contains statements about expected future events and financial results that are forward-looking and subject to risks and uncertainties. Discussion of factors that may affect future results is contained in Verizon's filings with the SEC, which are also available on our website.

This presentation contains certain non-GAAP financial measures. Reconciliations of these non-GAAP measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures are also on our website.

I'd like to state that all quarterly growth rates disclosed in our presentation slides and during our formal remarks are on a year-over-year basis unless otherwise noted. Also, there were no special items of nonoperational nature included in our reported results for the first quarter of either this year or last.

With that, I will now turn the call over to Fran.

Francis J. Shammo

Thanks, John. Good morning, everyone. Before we get into the details, let me start with a few comments about our first quarter results. On our last earnings call in January, I talked about the confidence we have in our ability to benefit from the market opportunities we see in our key strategic growth areas. Our focus will continue to be on execution, striving to capture incremental revenue and driving operating efficiencies throughout the business. With the results of our first quarter, we continue to execute and deliver on the guidance we gave back in January of 2011 and reaffirmed earlier this year. We remain as confident in the direction of our business now as we were then, and we continue to deliver strong results.

Earnings per share were $0.59, up 15.7% over first quarter last year. In Wireless, we saw a sharp acceleration of growth in retail service revenue and postpaid ARPU, driven by increased smartphone penetration and higher data device adoption, resulting in increased usage. This top line growth, combined with effective cost management, resulted in a very strong service EBITDA margin. Consumer retail revenue growth also continue to improve, driven by another solid quarter of FiOS performance. Our broadband net adds were the highest we have seen in nearly 3 years.

We had an extremely strong quarter of cash generation. Free cash flow of $2.4 billion is more than 3.5x the amount generated a year ago. The first quarter is normally the lowest quarter of the year, so we expect to see increasing free cash flow levels going forward. Capital expenditures in the first quarter were down more than 18% as our disciplined approach is resulting in capital efficiency gains and an improving return on investment profile for the entire business.

Let's begin our review with a look at consolidated results on Slide 4. Our consolidated results show strong growth this quarter. On the top line, our growth trends continue to be very positive, coming from all strategic areas, most notably, Wireless services. This quarter, overall revenue growth far outweighed the increase in operating expenses, resulting in double-digit operating income growth of 16.7%. Consolidated EBITDA grew to $9.2 billion, and our margin expanded to 32.7%, up 130 basis points year-over-year and 210 basis points sequentially.

Let's turn now to cash flow and capital spending on Slide 5. Our free cash flow this quarter increased $1.7 billion, driven by reduced levels of capital spending and an 18% increase in cash from operations. Capital expenditures totaled $3.6 billion in the quarter, a decrease of about $800 million compared to last year. Our overall capital efficiency continue to show steady improvement. We expect our annual CapEx-to-revenue ratio to decline for the full year based on improving revenue trends and disciplined capital spending.

In Wireless, capital spending in the quarter was $1.9 billion, which was lower by $850 million or 31% from the first quarter last year. You will recall that at this time last year, we were spending more to meet 3G capacity requirements in connection with our initial launch of the iPhone. As we move through the year, you will see a continued focus on migrating traffic from 3G to 4G LTE, which will drive additional improvements in our capital and operating efficiency. We will also continue to expand our 4G LTE network coverage, which is already the largest in the nation.

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