AT&T (T - Analyst Report) reported 3rd quarter earnings after the bell Wednesday. That's right -- after the bell, apparently just to shake things up a bit. The seminal telecom firm posted EPS of 66 cents, topping the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny. Revenues were in-line with estimates at roughly $32.2 billion in the quarter.
AT&T's U-verse (digital TV, Internet, mobile) revenues, including business, was up 28% year over year. U-verse now constitutes the company's fastest-growing segment. It also reported the addition of 1.2 million new smartphone subscribers over the past year, which now makes up 89% of AT&T's postpaid phone sales -- a new record.
It's been a tough few quarters for AT&T. This is the first positive earnings surprise since Q3 2012. And analysts had been downwardly revising estimates for Q3, Q4, fiscal 2013 and 2014, sending the stock down to a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). So though it may just be a beat by a penny, Ma Bell investors are likely pretty OK. Shares were up slightly during regular trading (on a relatively weak day for the market overall), and they are inching up in after-hours as well.
But all this earnings talk is really just the tip of the iceberg with regard to AT&T and the telecom industry in general, which has had no shortage of interesting narratives of late. AT&T alone has announced this week it will be the exclusive provider of Nokia's (NOK - Analyst Report) new Lumia 1520 smartphone, and will also support Nokia's new tablet offering coming out this holiday season. This follows last weekend's announcement that AT&T is selling $4.85 billion in cell tower assets to Crown Castle (CCI - Analyst Report) . It remains to be seen what the company plans to do with the new cash on hand, but the total dollar amount might be just enough to cover AT&T's buyout of Leap Wireless , first announced this past July.
To say nothing of Verizon (VZ - Analyst Report) finally having absorbed full control over its wireless division by buying out European telecom Vodafone (VOD - Analyst Report) for a cool $130 billion (!), Sprint (S - Analyst Report) being bought by Japan's SoftBank, and AT&T's own failed bid to take over T-Mobile (TMUS - Analyst Report) just a couple short years ago. I mean, wow -- pass the popcorn!
AT&T's 5.2% dividend yield is the best on the Dow. It's stock price, while down a bit from its peak last spring, is nonetheless still in range of its multi-year highs. It's nice to see a psotive earnings surprise for a change, but it seems like the real surprises for this company -- and this industry -- are still to come.