AT&T CFO issues update; sees Q4 EBITDA exceeding Q3 levels, expects postpaid ARPU levels to stabilize in 2022
Comments were made at today's Morgan Stanley conference by CFO P. Desroches:Desroches addressed the company's renewed momentum in its wireless business.
He said that AT&T's go-to-market strategy, which has led to wireless service revenue and EBITDA growth, is sustainable and that the company continues to expect fourth-quarter EBITDA growth to exceed third-quarter levels.
Further, the company's simplified plans, improved customer experience and network performance have driven its ability to retain subscribers, which has reduced churn and increased customer lifetime value.
Desroches said that while amortization accounting for promotions has modestly impacted postpaid phone ARPU levels in 2021, the company expects these to stabilize in 2022, driven by an anticipated recovery in international roaming revenues and continued subscriber adoption of higher-ARPU plans.
With postpaid phone ARPU stabilizing in 2022, Desroches said that AT&T expects higher wireless service revenues from a growing postpaid subscriber base. He also indicated that AT&T's outlook for 2022 and beyond does not assume a continuation of outsized industry net adds.
Should recent trends continue, Desroches believes the company is on solid footing to capitalize on better demand. However, AT&T's focus is on improving its share position profitably with continued market momentum regardless of industry demand levels.
Desroches also addressed HBO Max and HBO net adds. He said that trends are in line with AT&T's expectations driven by strong additions in international markets. In fact, while it is still early, initial data suggest that in most international markets HBO Max is quickly rising to become a top two direct-to-consumer provider in terms of subscribers and revenues.
Given this, Desroches said he feels good about HBO Max's global positioning and remains confident in its longer-term global expansion.
With regard to its pending WarnerMedia transaction with Discovery, the company continues to expect the transaction to close by mid-2022.
While dividend decisions are made at the discretion of the AT&T board of directors, Desroches said that after the transaction closes, AT&T expects an annual dividend payout ratio of 40% to 43% on anticipated free cash flows of $20 billion plus, equating to $8 billion to $9 billion in dividends annually.