AT&T says 'very healthy' wireless climate has continued
By Emily Bary
Wireless consumers remain 'very resilient,' CFO says
AT&T Inc. continues to see a "very healthy" wireless industry with no more promotional activity than what was observed in the holiday quarter.
While the wireless environment is "not at the elevated pace that we saw in the early days of pandemic," AT&T (T) Chief Financial Officer Pascal Desroches said at a Deutsche Bank investor conference Monday, it's "still really healthy."
Wireless customers have remained "very resilient," in Desroches' view, as they continue to "hang in there" in the current economic climate. Credit losses are largely in line with prepandemic levels.
The industry remains competitive, he noted, but not more so than in the holiday period, and AT&T has "no intentions of degrading the economics of our business" with its wireless strategy.
One compelling growth avenue in the wireless market these days comes as more people get second phones, Desroches suggested. Employers see security benefits to giving workers dedicated devices for company business, and workers want personal phones that give them flexibility from corporate restrictions.
"I do think this is a secular tailwind that I would expect to continue," Desroches said, according to a transcript provided by Sentieo/AlphaSense.
Desroches offered some reassurance about AT&T's capital-spending plans in response to a question from Deutsche Bank's Bryan Kraft about the company's expectation for flat growth in capital expenditures this year and declining capex spending in 2024. Was there a risk that decline won't happen as expected?
"We expect and we will moderate capex once beyond 2023," he said. "We are at record capital intensity, and over time, we would expect our capital intensity to be in the mid-teens," versus about 20% in 2020.
Shares of AT&T were off about 1% in afternoon trading Monday. They've gained 5.5% over the past 12 months, while the S&P 500 has fallen 9.1%.