AT&T's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

AT&T (T)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 24, 2012 10:00 am ET

Executives

Susan Johnson - Senior Vice President of Customer Information Services

John Joseph Stephens - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer and Senior Executive Vice President

Ralph de la Vega - Chief Executive Officer of AT&T Mobility and President of AT&T Mobility

Analysts

Simon Flannery - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

John C. Hodulik - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Philip Cusick - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

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

David W. Barden - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Michael Rollins - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Jonathan Chaplin - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

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

Jason Armstrong - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the AT&T First Quarter 2012 Earnings Release. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, today's call is being recorded. With that being said, I'll turn the conference over to Susan Johnson. Please go ahead.

Susan Johnson

Thank you, John. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our first quarter conference call. It's great to have you with us. I'm Susan Johnson, Head of Investor Relations for AT&T. With me on the call today is John Stephens, AT&T's Chief Financial Officer; and Ralph de la Vega, AT&T's President and CEO for Mobility. John will cover our consolidated wireline results and Ralph will give us an update on our wireless business. And then we'll follow up with Qs and As.

Let me remind you, our earnings material is available on the Investor Relations page of the AT&T website at www.att.com/investor.relations. I also need to cover our Safe Harbor statement, which is on Slide 3. This presentation and comments may contain forward-looking statements. They're subject to risks. Results may differ materially. Details are on our SEC filings and on AT&T's website.

Before I turn the call over to John, let me quickly call your attention to Slide 4, which provides a financial summary. EPS for the quarter was $0.60, a 5.3% increase over last year's first quarter EPS. Consolidated revenues were up once again, thanks to strong revenue growth in wireless, gains in U-verse services and continued improving trends in wireline business. Margins were up, both in consolidated and wireless, even with continued smartphone sales. And cash flow continues to be solid. Cash from operating activities for the quarter totaled $7.8 billion and free cash flow of $3.5 billion. We also began our share repurchase program in the first quarter. John will go into more detail. But for the quarter, we bought back more than $2 billion in shares. And with that overview, I'll now turn the call over to AT&T's Chief Financial Officer, John Stephens. John?

John Joseph Stephens

Thank you, Susan, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for being with us today. During our last earnings call, our Chairman, Randall Stephenson, laid out a few strategic focus areas for 2012. I would like to start this morning by giving you an update on what we've done so far. The highlights are on Slide 5.

First, we had a terrific start to the year. In January, we talked about our ability to execute and grow the business and laid out clear objectives for the year. At the end of the first quarter, we remain confident in our business operations and our ability to achieve guidance in every area. Second, we told you that we will begin buying back shares as part of our 300 million share authorization. We've done just that and we have done so aggressively, buying back more than 67 million shares in the first quarter. Third, we remain focused on improving our overall growth profile by looking at opportunities to divest or restructure low-performing and nonstrategic assets. You saw us take a step in this direction with the announced sale of Advertising Solutions to Cerberus Capital Management. We expect that transaction to close in mid-year. And we continue to look for other ways to improve the growth profile of our business. And fourth, we also spoke of the importance of spectrum, not just to us but to the entire wireless industry. We've taken action by acquiring additional spectrum through smaller transactions. 10 separate transactions closed in the first quarter alone and we have 4 more deals currently in process at the FCC. We also continue to maximize our network capacity and quality with existing spectrum through network management and tiered data pricing. Our LTE rollout is growing strong. So as you can see, we are off to a very strong start in executing the plans we have laid out. And we remain confident in our ability to execute and grow the business.

Let's now take a look at first quarter operational highlights on Slide 6. No matter which financial metric you focus on, you see solid results, bigger [ph] revenue thanks to a strong wireless quarter and the best revenue growth in wireline consumer in years. Operating income margins were up across-the-board, consolidated, wireless and wireline. And we grew earnings in the mid-single-digit range. We also continue to see impressive strength in all our growth drivers. Data growth, driven by the mobile Internet, leads the way. Ralph will give you the highlights in a moment, but let me give you a few of the headlines.

We continue to set the pace in smartphone sales. We actually sold slightly more smartphones this quarter than a year ago, but our service margins were up significantly. We also had another record first quarter with branded computing sales, thanks to tablets and tethering plans. All this helped drive strong mobile data growth of almost 20%, or more than $1 billion higher than the first quarter a year ago. Throw in our lowest postpaid churn in 7 quarters, and you can see the strength of this business and of our mobile Internet strategy. We also continue to be pleased with the extensive transformation of our wireline business. U-verse continues to make impressive gains. Not only did we hit 4 million TV subscribers, but we also had strong U-verse broadband sales. Year-over-year, business wireline revenue trends also continue to improve, thanks to another strong quarter from strategic business services. So you're seeing strong execution in every part of the business and a very solid start to the year.

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