Verizon Communications Inc. shares gained Friday after the company posted results that analysts called “clean” and “reliable.”
The wireless operator topped both revenue and adjusted earnings expectations for the June quarter even as both dipped from a year ago as the company felt the effects from COVID-19. In particular, Verizon’s VZ, +1.79% media business saw a 24.5% revenue decline given sluggish advertising trends.
The company reported 72,000 retail postpaid net additions in the quarter for its consumer business and total retail postpaid churn of 0.69%. Verizon also disclosed that it saw 97,000 phone net additions and 199,000 postpaid smartphone net additions, and that its retail postpaid phone churn was 0.51%.
MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said that the retail postpaid phone churn metric was “the lowest we’ve ever seen” as he reiterated a neutral rating and $62 target price.
Cowen & Co. analyst Colby Synesael highlighted Verizon’s “upside postpaid phone adds” but argued that there might be a bit more to the story on churn.
“Verizon still incorporates at-risk (non-paying) [Keep America Connected] subscribers in the base,” he wrote in a note to clients, referring to a government pledge that asked wireless companies to keep providing service to customers who were unable to pay their bills due to COVID-19.
Verizon Chief Financial Officer Matt Ellis said on the company’s call that more than 80% of customers who took the pledge were still making payments and that he expected “the vast majority” of them to still be customers in a year.
Cowen’s Synesael, who rates Verizon’s stock at outperform and boosted his target price to $62 from $60, wrote that “admittedly we assume there will be some level of true-up in 3Q20 whereas AT&T T, -1.10% removed these subs this quarter and led to their missed [subscriber] results.”
While analysts appreciated the stability of Verizon’s telecommunications business during the pandemic, especially as AT&T and Comcast have greater exposure to the more troubled media landscape, some did express some concern about Verizon’s future.
“We value Verizon leadership’s commitment to network evolution, segmentation, and the long- term growth of its dividend (4.5% yield),” wrote Bernstein’s Peter Supino, who rates the stock at market perform with a $58 price target. “We see signs that segment saturation, competition and economic stress are reversing several virtuous trends in Verizon’s mobile business,” he said.
Wrote Moffett: “Remember the old adage ‘the best defense is a good offense?’ Verizon feels like all defense, all the time.” He remains concerned that while Verizon pursued a path of simplicity at a time when its peers got hung up with big mergers, the company may not have executed well enough on its “network-first” strategy, which puts it at risk to lag T-Mobile US Inc. TMUS, +0.40% as 5G takes the stage.
For the June quarter, Verizon posted net income of $4.7 billon, or $1.13 a share, up from $3.9 billion, or 95 cents a share, in the year-prior quarter. Verizon saw adjusted earnings per share of $1.18, down from $1.23 a year earlier but above the FactSet consensus of $1.15.
The wireless operator estimates that both GAAP and adjusted EPS saw negative impacts of about 14 cents stemming from impacts to wireless service revenue and lower advertising and search revenue for Verizon’s media unit. Verizon also saw an aggregate tax benefit of $156 million in the quarter related to an internal reorganization. This contributed to a roughly 4-cent benefit to EPS.
Verizon’s revenue for the quarter slipped to $30.4 billion from $32.1 billion in the prior June period, while analysts surveyed by FactSet had been expecting $29.9 billion. The company generated $21.1 billion in revenue from its consumer segment and $7.5 billion from its business segment, along with $1.4 billion in media revenue.
Verizon expects adjusted EPS growth of negative 2% to positive 2% for the full year, an outlook that “assumes no significant deterioration to the macroeconomic environment or material changes to the company’s bad debt reserves.”
Shares have dropped 1.9% over the past three months as the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.68% has risen 11%.