Verizon Communications reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Tuesday but its shares fell as it predicted profit growth would be flat in 2019.
The telecom giant said net income attributable declined to $1.94 billion, or 47 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, from $18.78 billion, or $4.56 per share, a year earlier, when it recorded a $16.8 billion one-time benefit from the U.S. tax overhaul.
But excluding items, Verizon earned $1.12 per share, beating the average estimate of $1.09 per share. Total operating revenue rose 1% to $34.28 billion, below the estimate of $34.44 billion.
“Verizon finished 2018 by delivering solid financial and operational performance, as evidenced by our strong wireless service revenue and earnings growth,” CEO Hans Vestberg said in a news release.
Wireless revenues rose 2.7% to $24.4 billion in the fourth quarter, with Verizon adding a net 653,000 postpaid phone subscribers. Analysts had estimated a gain of 355,600 subscribers.
“Analysts pay attention to postpaid customers, or those with a recurring bill, because they are more valuable to carriers and remain with the company longer than prepaid customers,” Reuters noted.
But Verizon CFO Matt Ellis said during the earnings call with analysts that the company expects earnings per share growth in 2019 to be reduced by 24 cents to 28 cents, due to a higher effective tax rate and increased interest expense.
Verizon’s business was strong enough to offset the “non-operational items,” he said, so earnings would be at the same level as 2018.
In trading Tuesday, Verizon shares fell 2% to $53.99. “They’re guiding flat EPS year-over-year, at a time when GDP is growing strongly and competitive intensity is so benign. It’s not very inspiring,” Craig Moffett, an analyst with MoffettNathanson, told Reuters.
Revenue from Verizon Media, which includes Yahoo Finance, TechCrunch, HuffPost and other media properties, dropped 5.8% to $2.1 billion in the fourth quarter. The unit disclosed that it was laying off about 800 employees, or 7% of its workforce.