(Bloomberg) – Verizon Communications Inc.’s earnings outlook fell short of Wall Street estimates as the consumer wireless business struggles to win new customers.
America’s largest mobile carrier has relied on expensive phone giveaways to compete with its peers. The company said Tuesday it expects 2023 earnings per share, excluding certain items, to be between $4.55 and $4.85, while analysts were looking for 4.97 $ on average.
Verizon is the first of the big three US mobile carriers to release full results. The company lost market share to AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. with their network upgrades and free phone offers.
The projected annual decline in earnings of about 9% this year highlights the challenges Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg faces as he relies on margin-squeezing promotions to turn around consumer business falling. Verizon has had three consumer chiefs over the past year.
Speaking on a call with analysts on Tuesday, Vestberg said his pricing strategy would depend on the market. Its current plan does not include price increases.
“We will be surgical and segmented in our approach,” Vestberg said. “We will continue to look for ways to bring plans to market that reduce the level of subsidy.”
The company added 217,000 new wireless phone subscribers in the fourth quarter, beating analysts’ projections of 209,600. But the gains were well below T-Mobile’s preliminary addition of 927,000 mobile phone subscribers in the fourth quarter. AT&T, which reported Wednesday, is expected to have added 639,600 phone subscribers.
Verizon shares rose 0.1% at 10:23 a.m. New York time. The stock had fallen 25% in the 12 months through Monday’s close, compared to a 4% decline for AT&T and a 35% gain for T-Mobile.
Verizon did not provide forecasts for mobile business. Analysts expect the industry’s subscriber growth to slow this year as consumers begin to cut spending.
A bright spot for Verizon is the continued growth in broadband. The company added 379,000 home wireless subscribers in the fourth quarter, compared to analysts’ forecast of 251,200. For the full year, analysts expect the company to add more than 1 million customers as Verizon and other wireless carriers increase competition with cable companies.
Fourth-quarter earnings and sales were in line with estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
(Updates with CEO comments in fifth and sixth paragraphs.)
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