(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. posted fourth-quarter earnings that topped analysts’ expectations, giving investors less reason to fret over lavish free-phone promotions and the mounting costs of 5G and fiber network expansion.

  • Fourth-quarter earnings excluding some items were 78 cents a share, compared with the 75-cent average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
  • The company said 2022 adjusted earnings will be $3.10 to $3.15 a share on a low-single-digit revenue increase. Analysts had projected earnings would be $3.13 a share on sales of $155.2 billion.
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Key Insights

  • The third-largest U.S. wireless carrier didn’t provide an outlook for its wireless business. AT&T had already announced that it added 4.5 million wireless customers in 2021, the fastest growth in 10 years, thanks in part to iPhone giveaways.
    • Wireless growth is expected to moderate this year. Colby Synesael, an analyst with Cowen, expects an industry slowdown of about 17% for new phone subscribers in 2022.
  • AT&T says it now expects to close the WarnerMedia merger with Discovery Inc. in the second quarter, slightly ahead of the previous “midyear” estimate.
  • AT&T credited fourth-quarter revenue growth to gains in broadband that more than offset declines in landline phone and DSL services. Earlier this week, the company introduced the fastest and most expensive fiber connections offered by major internet providers, topping out at a blazing 5 gigabits per second for $180 a month.
  • Investors may have a higher bar for AT&T’s results after rival Verizon Communications Inc. posted stronger-than-expected earnings and subscriber growth on Tuesday.

Market Reaction

  • AT&T shares rose 0.9% in New York premarket trading. As of Tuesday, the stock had fallen 9% over the past 12 months, compared with a 9.5% drop in Verizon and a 19% slump in T-Mobile US Inc.

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