U-verse 4Q: 'The Best is Yet to Come&#39

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AT&T exes were bullish on U-verse's outlook during the company's earnings call Thurs, for a good reason: For the first time, the company has more consumer U-verse HSI subs than legacy DSL subs. The telco added 609K U-verse Internet subs in 4Q (vs. 210K in the year-ago quarter) to reach a total of 7.7mln, helping offset losses from DSL. Overall, wireline broadband sub growth was flat though total broadband ARPU was up more than 10% YOY. That's because more subs have upgraded their Internet plans. Some 55% of U-verse broadband subs have a plan delivering speeds up to 12Mbps or higher, up from 46% in the year-ago quarter. About 90% of new U-verse subs also signed up U-verse HSI in the quarter. Additionally, 70% of U-verse TV subs take 3 or 4 other services from the telco. U-verse TV added 192K net new subs to reach 4.5mln in service. In total, U-verse subs have reached 8mln. U-verse TV penetration continues to grow YOY and was at 18.7% at quarter's end. “We believe the best is yet to come. We think there's a lot of room for growth here,” CFO John Stephens said. The penetration rates for U-verse TV and broadband have just started to climb, he said. “The runway is long.” And with the company's Project VIP initiative, which calls for $14bln investment in wireless and wireline, U-verse growth will continue, he said. U-verse has “a lot of headroom,” said CEO Randall Stephenson. Despite pension charges and Hurricane Sandy, AT&T narrowed its loss to $3.9bln vs $6.7bln in the year-ago quarter. For the full year, the telco earned $7.3bln. “I don't think there will be any big plans coming out of the (Obama) Administration that will change our plans,” Stephenson said. He called for a lower corporate tax rate but applauded the Obama Administration's goal to expand broadband deployment. For '13, the company expects 2% revenue growth YOY. Meanwhile, AT&T restored its U-verse service for “the vast majority of our customers” after outages that affected subs nationwide. “We expect any remaining customer issues will be resolved this morning,” a rep said Thurs. The company will provide a credit to affected customers.

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