As Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) continues to transform its business and enter new markets, the company today reported another strong quarter of wireless profitability and customer loyalty, and customer and revenue growth for Fios fiber-optic services.
Verizon reported fourth-quarter 2016 EPS of $1.10, and full-year EPS of $3.21. Adjusted fourth-quarter 2016 EPS (non-GAAP) of 86 cents excluded 24 cents in net gains related to mark-to-market pension and OPEB (other post-employment benefits) adjustments and severance-related costs. This compares with adjusted fourth-quarter 2015 earnings of 89 cents per share, which primarily excluded pension and OPEB adjustments and severance-related costs.
“We are positioning Verizon for future growth and continued sustainable shareholder value,” said Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam. “In the fourth quarter we expanded our customer base in highly competitive wireless and broadband markets. This capped a year in which we delivered solid results and returned value to shareholders, including $9.3 billion in dividends. We enter 2017 with confidence, based on our investments in next-generation networks and the new capabilities we have acquired. Our goal is to continue to earn our customers’ loyalty every day in a rapidly expanding mobile-first digital world.”
Total consolidated operating revenues in fourth-quarter 2016 were $32.3 billion, a 5.6 percent decrease compared with fourth-quarter 2015. Full-year 2016 revenues were nearly $126.0 billion, a 4.3 percent decline. Excluding revenues from since-divested local landline businesses and AOL, adjusted full-year total operating revenues on a comparable basis (non-GAAP) would have declined approximately 2.4 percent.
Net income was $4.6 billion in fourth-quarter 2016, and net income margin was 14.2 percent. EBITDA (non-GAAP, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) totaled $12.0 billion, and the consolidated EBITDA margin (non-GAAP) was 37.1 percent in fourth-quarter 2016.
During 2016, Verizon invested in its networks with $17.1 billion in capital expenditures, completed wireline divestitures of three markets, negotiated new labor contracts, executed successful technical trials of 5G wireless service and expanded its new growth businesses.
In these new markets the digital media business, led by AOL, generated $532 million in revenues net of traffic acquisition costs (non-GAAP) in fourth-quarter 2016. This declined about 5 percent year-over-year due to a revenue lift in fourth-quarter 2015 related to AOL’s Microsoft deal, but increased around 10 percent compared with third-quarter 2016.
IoT (Internet of Things) revenues, led by telematics, increased 21 percent on a comparable basis to fourth-quarter 2015, to $243 million. Verizon expects to sustain this trend in strong IoT revenue growth. Including acquisitions, IoT revenues increased more than 60 percent in fourth-quarter 2016.
Verizon Wireless highlights
- Verizon reported 591,000 retail postpaid net additions in fourth-quarter 2016. These net additions exclude wholesale device and wholesale IoT connections. At year-end 2016, Verizon had 114.2 million retail connections, a 1.9 percent year-over-year increase. Verizon’s industry-leading retail postpaid connections base grew 2.1 percent to 108.8 million, and retail prepaid connections totaled 5.4 million. Full-year postpaid net additions of 2.3 million included 1.8 million 4G smartphones and 1.4 million 4G tablets, offset primarily by declines in basic phones and 3G smartphones.
- Total revenues were $23.4 billion in fourth-quarter 2016, a decline of 1.5 percent compared with fourth-quarter 2015, as more customers continued to choose unsubsidized device payment plans. For the full year, revenues totaled $89.2 billion, a decline of 2.7 percent. Service revenues plus device payment plan billings increased 1.7 percent in fourth-quarter 2016, compared with fourth-quarter 2015.
- Retail postpaid churn was 1.10 percent in fourth-quarter 2016, a year-over-year increase of 14 basis points, as strong retention in the phone base was offset by increased churn in tablets. Phone customer loyalty remained high. In fourth-quarter 2016, retail postpaid phone churn remained below 0.90 percent for the seventh consecutive quarter.
- At year-end 2016, approximately 67 percent of postpaid phone customers were on a non-subsidized service pricing plan, ahead of target due to high volumes in fourth-quarter 2016.
- The percentage of phone activations on device payment plans increased to about 77 percent in fourth-quarter 2016, compared with about 70 percent in third-quarter 2016 and 67 percent in fourth-quarter 2015. Verizon expects the first-quarter 2017 take rate for device payment plans to be similar to fourth-quarter 2016. At year-end, approximately 46 percent of postpaid phone customers had a device payment plan.
- The 591,000 retail postpaid net additions in fourth-quarter 2016 included 552,000 4G LTE smartphones. With declines in basic and 3G phones, net phone additions were 167,000 in fourth-quarter 2016, compared to a net decrease of 36,000 in third-quarter 2016. Tablet net additions totaled 196,000 in fourth-quarter 2016.
- Segment operating income in fourth-quarter 2016 was $6.3 billion, and segment operating income margin was 27.0 percent. In fourth-quarter 2016, Verizon Wireless generated $8.6 billion in segment EBITDA (non-GAAP), a year-over-year decrease of 5.2 percent. Segment EBITDA margin on total revenues (non-GAAP) was 36.9 percent, compared with 38.4 percent in fourth-quarter 2015.
- In fourth-quarter 2016, overall traffic on LTE increased by approximately 49 percent compared with fourth-quarter 2015, while Verizon extended its lead in the industry’s third-party network performance studies across the country.
- Total wireline revenues decreased 3.1 percent, to $7.8 billion, comparing fourth-quarter 2016 with fourth-quarter 2015. Retail consumer revenues grew 0.2 percent, to $3.2 billion, supported by consumer Fios revenue growth.
- Total Fios revenues grew 4.4 percent, to $2.9 billion, comparing fourth-quarter 2016 with fourth-quarter 2015. Full-year Fios revenues were $11.2 billion in 2016, a 4.6 percent increase compared with 2015.
- In fourth-quarter 2016, Verizon added a net of 68,000 Fios Internet connections and 21,000 Fios Video connections. Customer demand for Custom TV continues to remain strong. At year-end, Verizon had 5.7 million Fios Internet connections and 4.7 million Fios Video connections.
- In the fourth quarter, Verizon began offering consumer and business fiber-based services to customers in Boston, as part of the company’s One Fiber initiative.
- Wireline operating income was $414 million in fourth-quarter 2016, compared with $7 million in fourth-quarter 2015. Segment operating income margin was 5.3 percent in fourth-quarter 2016. Segment EBITDA (non-GAAP) was $1.9 billion in fourth-quarter 2016, up 17.7 percent from fourth-quarter 2015. Segment EBITDA margin (non-GAAP) was 24.1 percent in fourth-quarter 2016, compared with 19.8 percent in fourth-quarter 2015.
- During the fourth quarter, Verizon Enterprise Solutions entered into new agreements, continued or completed work with a number of clients, including AECOM, ICICI Bank, LBC Tank Terminals Group, Nanyang Technological University and Target Corporation.
Outlook and forward-looking items
Verizon expects the following:
- Full-year 2017 consolidated revenues, on an organic basis, to be fairly consistent with 2016, with improvement in wireless service revenue and equipment revenue trends; also, full-year 2017 consolidated adjusted EPS trends to be similar to consolidated revenue trends;
- Consolidated capital spending for 2017 in the range of $16.8 billion to $17.5 billion;
- Minimum pension funding requirements of approximately $600 million in 2017;
- The 2017 effective tax rate to be in the range of 34 percent to 36 percent, excluding impacts from potential tax reform;
- On track for a return by the 2018-2019 timeframe to the company’s credit-rating profile prior to the acquisition of Vodafone’s indirect 45 percent interest in Verizon Wireless in early 2014.
Regarding pending transactions, Verizon expects its acquisition of XO Communications to close in first-quarter 2017 and its sale of data centers to Equinix to close in second-quarter 2017. Regarding the Yahoo acquisition, Verizon continues to work with Yahoo to assess the impact of data breaches.
Shares of Verizon closed yesterday at $51.00, down $1.41 or -2.69%. VZ has a 1-year high of $56.95 and a 1-year low of $46.01. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $52.64 and its 200-day moving average is $51.84.
On the ratings front, Verizon has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report released yesterday, Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche downgraded VZ to Hold. Separately, on January 20, Macquarie’s Amy Yong reiterated a Hold rating on the stock and has a price target of $55.
According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Jennifer Fritzsche and Amy Yong have a yearly average return of 15.7% and 13.8% respectively. Fritzsche has a success rate of 75% and is ranked #180 out of 4359 analysts, while Yong has a success rate of 69% and is ranked #393.
Overall, 4 research analysts have assigned a Hold rating and 3 research analysts have given a Buy rating to the stock. When considering if perhaps the stock is under or overvalued, the average price target is $55.00 which is 4.9% above where the stock closed yesterday.