• United States

AT&T’s fourth quarter slumps

Jan 22, 20043 mins
AT&TFinancial Services IndustryWi-Fi

AT&T’s revenue continues to fall, but the carrier says it will not stand for losing business service market share.

Fourth-quarter revenue was down 12.8% to $8.1 billion from 2002’s fourth quarter, with AT&T Business taking a big hit.

AT&T Business reported revenue of $5.9 billion, down 10.9% compared to the same period a year ago. This represents a “severe deterioration in business revenues,” according to a report from financial firm Jefferies Research.

The carrier says it expects AT&T Business revenue to decline 4% to 7% in 2004.

AT&T did not react quickly enough when competitors cut prices toward the end of the year and took customers from the carrier, said Chairman and CEO David Dorman.

“Certain competitors became more desperate… lowering prices well below industry rates,” Dorman said. He says AT&T has now lowered rates and “will not be beat on price.” 

Regardless of why AT&T lost business service revenue in the fourth quarter, the carrier says it’s committed to growing market share. “It’s unacceptable for us to lose share,” said William Hannigan, president at AT&T, who has been on the job for just over a month.  

Despite AT&T’s revenue declines, the carrier actually beat analyst expectations in terms of earnings per share. The carrier reported income from continuing operations of $340 million for the quarter, turning around from a loss of $611 million in the fourth quarter of 2002. This translates to earnings per share slightly better than analyst expectations.

These results don’t include the numbers from AT&T Wireless Services, which posted a loss of $84 million, or $0.03 per share, compared with a loss of $136 million, or $0.05 a share, for the fourth quarter in 2002. AT&T Wireless, according to reports, is for sale, with several carriers bidding for the company.

AT&T’s fourth-quarter earnings per share from continuing operations was $0.43, two cents more than consensus expectations by from analysts polled by Thompson First Call. The fourth-quarter loss per share in 2002 was $0.79. AT&T loss in the fourth quarter of 2002 included more than $1.2 billion in asset-impairment charges.

For the full year, AT&T reported income from continuing operations of $1.9 billion, or earnings per diluted share of $2.36, compared with income from continuing operations of $1 billion and earnings per diluted share of $1.26 in 2002. AT&T reported full-year 2003 consolidated revenue of $34.5 billion, which included $25 billion from AT&T Business and $9.5 billion from AT&T Consumer. This represented a consolidated revenue decline of 8.7% compared to 2002.

In an effort to build up its consumer revenue the carrier says it will expand the reach of its bundled service offerings from seven to 31 states by the end of March. AT&T says it will also offer a consumer voice-over-IP service that would directly compete with offerings from Vonage and 8×8. Dorman says consumers are looking for broadband VoIP services from reliable carriers like AT&T and even speculated that VoIP over broadband could be the “killer app” the industry has been looking for.

The carrier is also planning to launch a VoIP service option for its VPN customers that will be launched by the end of the second quarter.

AT&T’s capital expenditures will be $2.5 billion in 2004.