Free cash flow in the $26 billion range1
Dividend payout ratio in the high 50% range1
End-of-year net-debt-to-adjusted-EBITDA ratio in the 2.5x range
Gross capital investment in the $23 billion range2
Adjusted EPS growth percentage in the low single digits3
AT&T will webcast analyst meeting today at 4 p.m. ET
AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) provided an update on its strategy following the acquisition of Time Warner, now known as WarnerMedia, as well as guidance for 2019. Guidance includes significant expected growth in free cash flow, which will help the company achieve its target of a debt ratio in the 2.5x range by the end of 2019, as well as a low single digit growth rate in adjusted EPS.
The company is hosting a meeting with financial analysts today to discuss its strategy and 2019 outlook. Presenters will include: Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO; John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications; John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia; Lori Lee, CEO of AT&T Latin America; Brian Lesser, CEO of Xandr; and John Stephens, CFO. The meeting will be webcast on the AT&T Investor Relations website beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern time. Related materials will be available in the same location when the event begins.
“We are well positioned for success as the lines between entertainment and communications continue to blur,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. “If you’re a media company, you can no longer rely exclusively on wholesale distribution models. You must develop a direct relationship with your viewers. And if you’re a communications company, you can no longer rely exclusively on oversized bundles of content.
“We have some of the world’s best content and 370 million direct-to-consumer relationships across mobility, video, broadband and our digital properties,”4 Stephenson said. “That exceptional combination enables us to deliver a broad spectrum of entertainment experiences — from premium video to skinnier over-the-top and mobile-centric bundles of live content, and a subscription video-on-demand product to launch late next year. And with Xandr, our advertising business, we’re using insights from our customer relationships, combined with our large advertising inventory, to drive higher yields on advertising.
“Our leadership position in communications and entertainment gives us a distinct advantage that will allow us to grow our share of both segments over time,” he said.
Highlights of what AT&T will cover in its analyst meeting today include:
2019 Financial Guidance
Free cash flow in the $26 billion range with a solid dividend payout ratio — in the high 50% range
— 1 Free cash flow is cash from operating activities minus capital expenditures. Free cash flow dividend payout ratio is dividends divided by free cash flow.
Net-debt-to-adjusted-EBITDA ratio in the 2.5x range at year-end
Gross capital investment in the $23 billion range
— 2 Excludes expected FirstNet reimbursement in the $1 billion range; includes potential vendor financing.
Adjusted EPS growth percentage in the low single digits
— 3 Adjustments include merger-related adjusted amortization costs in the range of $7.5 billion, a non-cash mark-to-market benefit plan gain/loss, merger integration and other adjustments. We expect the mark-to-market adjustment which is driven by interest rates and investment returns that are not reasonably estimable at this time, to be a significant item. Accordingly, we cannot provide a reconciliation between forecasted adjusted diluted EPS and reported diluted EPS without unreasonable effort.
Merger Synergies and Debt Reduction
The company expects total WarnerMedia synergies to reach a run rate of $2.5 billion by the end of 2021. About $1.5 billion will be cost synergies, including efficiencies in marketing and procurement functions and corporate overhead. The remaining $1 billion are revenue synergies expected from additional sales opportunities, lower subscriber churn and higher advertising. The company expects to reach a run rate of about $700 million by the end of 2019, increasing to $2 billion by the end of 2020 and ramping to $2.5 billion by the end of 2021.
AT&T expects to end 2018 with a net-debt-to-adjusted-EBITDA ratio of about 2.8x, which it plans to reduce to the 2.5x range by the end of 2019, implying an $18 billion to $20 billion reduction in debt. The company expects to use about $12 billion in free cash flow after dividends to pay down debt in 2019. It also expects to generate cash of at least $6 billion to $8 billion from other opportunities, including real estate sale-lease backs, sales of non-core assets and working capital initiatives.
The Mobility business unit represents nearly half of AT&T’s adjusted EBITDA and about 40% of its revenues.5
The company expects Mobility to continue to deliver top- and bottom-line growth. Mobility is growing both service revenues and EBITDA and will continue to do so in 2019.
The company expects its leadership in 5G and its FirstNet deployment will help sustain this growth. The company announced today that it has launched LTE-LAA technology — with theoretical peak speeds of up to 1Gbps — in 31 markets across the United States.6
The company has the best wireless network in the United States, according to GWS.7
WarnerMedia represents about 17% of the company’s revenue and adjusted EBITDA5 and has been accretive to AT&T’s adjusted EPS since the acquisition closed in June 2018.
WarnerMedia’s Home Box Office, Turner and Warner Bros. units grew revenues in the third quarter of 2018.
WarnerMedia expects to continue growing its top- and bottom-line and to be accretive to AT&T’s adjusted EPS in 2019.
WarnerMedia is well positioned with its existing wholesale distribution of content, combined with its plans for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service next year and potentially an advertising-supported video on demand service in the future.
WarnerMedia plans to launch its initial direct-to-consumer SVOD beta application in the fourth quarter of 2019.
— The SVOD service will include three levels of service: an entry-level movie-focused package; a premium service with original programming and blockbuster movies; and a third service that bundles content from the first two plus an extensive library of WarnerMedia and licensed content.
— The SVOD service will complement WarnerMedia’s existing business; benefit its current distribution partners; expand the audience and increase engagement around its content; and provide data and analytics to inform new products and better monetize content.
Entertainment Group (video and broadband business)
Entertainment Group represents about 15% of the company’s adjusted EBITDA5.
This unit expects stable EBITDA in 2019, compared with 2018 levels. In 2019, the company expects:
— Growth in broadband revenues and subscribers as AT&T continues to expand its fiber network and adds additional higher-ARPU fiber subscribers.
— Increased profitability in OTT video, as shown by recent price increases, lower content costs and adjustments to promotions. This will likely result in negative net adds at DIRECTV NOW in the fourth quarter of 2018 and in 2019.
— A $1 billion improvement in linear video revenues driven by the remaining 2 million subscribers rolling off 2-year price locks and increased ad revenues from Xandr, AT&T’s advertising business, which grew revenues more than 20% in the third quarter of 2018.
- As the 2-year price locks roll off, the company expects a decline in linear video subscribers in 2019 consistent with the pace of decline in the third quarter of 2018.
— Voice revenue declines and amortization of commissions and installment costs will continue to impact EBITDA and operating income.
— Cost reductions driven by increased efficiency and automation will continue to provide cost savings.
AT&T Latin America
The company expects to continue improving EBITDA and cash flows in its Mexico wireless operations in 2019.
— AT&T has more than 17 million wireless subscribers in Mexico, nearly double 2015 levels, and is the fastest growing wireless provider in the country.
Mexico’s growing economy and expanding population offer opportunities for growth, and the company expects to continue to add subscribers. At the same time, it has opportunities to reduce costs and capital expenditures as it completes its LTE network build and systems integration work.
Vrio, AT&T’s video operations in 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, expects to sustain cash generation in 2019.
— AT&T is using technology to reduce Vrio’s cost structure through initiatives like electronic billing and automation. The company also sees growth opportunities from its recent launch of over-the-top service DIRECTV Go in Colombia and Chile.
AT&T expects continued strong growth in advertising revenues while it builds a premium advertising marketplace.
— Advertising represents a nearly $7 billion annual revenue stream for AT&T.8
— AT&T’s advertising unit Xandr grew revenues more than 20% on a comparable basis in the third quarter of 2018 and it plans to continue to deliver strong revenue growth in its existing media sales operations in 2019.
4 Represents cumulative 170 million video-capable D2C relationships across the following services: Postpaid, prepaid and reseller wireless; US and DTV LatAm pay-TV, including DIRECTV NOW; Mexico wireless; and US consumer broadband as well as 200 million unique visitors to digital properties, including CNN.com, HBO NOW®, Otter Media and Bleacher Report.
5 As of 3Q18
6 Actual speeds are lower and will vary. See http://about.att.com/sites/broadband/performance for more information on wireless speeds.
7 Based on GWS OneScore Sept. 2018. Excludes crowd sourced studies.
8 Includes WarnerMedia AdWorks and other revenues as of 3Q18.