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HomeTelecomCES ideas and Q1 earnings hints from the Citi Convention (Half 1)

CES ideas and Q1 earnings hints from the Citi Convention (Half 1)


Greetings from Las Vegas and the Midwest.  It has been a full two weeks with information from the Citi convention plus extra trade developments.  We are going to start with a full market commentary adopted by a number of CES observations, and finish with some ideas on Q1 earnings.

Talking of earnings, the fourth quarter convention name schedule (as of Friday) is as follows:

Verizon Jan. 24 earlier than market open
Microsoft Jan. 24 after market shut
AT&T Jan. 25 earlier than market open
Comcast Jan. 26 earlier than market open
Constitution Jan. 27 earlier than market open
Meta Feb. 1 after market shut
Alphabet Feb. 2 after market shut
Apple Feb. 2 after market shut

Lastly, for these of you attending Metro Join in Ft Lauderdale on the finish of the month, Jim will likely be there in his Fastwyre capability.  Please attain out to him instantly at [email protected] if you wish to get collectively. 

The fortnight that was

A clear slate was wanted after 2022’s losses, and to date, 2023 is within the inexperienced.  Upcoming earnings announcement impacts apart, each the Fab 5 and the Telco Prime 5 look like headed for a constructive January.  For the primary two weeks of the yr, the Fab 5 are up $314 billion (so roughly one AT&T and one Verizon in market cap features during the last fortnight) and the Telco Prime 5 are up $55 billion. 

Slightly below half of the Fab 5 achieve is from Amazon (+$144 billion) and over 30% of the Telco Prime 5 achieve is from Comcast (+$17 billion).  Neither of those are shocking after the substantial losses final yr ($844 billion for AMZN and $70 billion for CMCSA), though any mega-cap gaining 17% in two weeks is sure to draw some consideration. 

Maybe the largest information impacting the ten shares we cowl is Microsoft’s rumored $10 billion funding in OpenAI, the creator of everybody’s favourite synthetic intelligence bot, ChatGPT.  In 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion into the corporate.  Per this text at Enterprise Insider, Microsoft would obtain 75% of OpenAI’s income till they recovered their funding and would finally find yourself with 49% possession of the corporate.  Different traders would additionally personal 49%, whereas OpenAI’s nonprofit guardian would personal the remaining 2%. 

With this transfer, Microsoft features management of a number one software program firm with out the Activision-esque scrutiny from the FTC.  Ultimately, nevertheless, Redmond will finally need full management of the corporate with the intention to combine OpenAI’s capabilities into Microsoft’s many product strains (others have assumed that this might substitute Bing, however the implications of ChatGPT and successor platforms lengthen properly past search). 

Acquisition and funding rumors additionally hit the Telco Prime 5 with Bloomberg reporting that T-Cell was buying their largest MVNO (behind Tracfone), Mint Cell.  This might enhance T-Cell’s direct publicity to the worth phase and provides the corporate a further various model past Metro. 

Talking of Metro, it was reported on Friday by Wave7 Analysis (Gentle Studying article right here) that T-Cell laid off 600 territory managers, retail relationship managers, and oblique retail gross sales staff.  Within the Gentle Studying article, there’s a hyperlink to Jon Frier’s web site publish final week detailing how T-Cell’s retail technique is altering.  It’s a really attention-grabbing learn.  As famous, T-Cell’s want to manage the shopper expertise by means of larger direct retailer possession contrasts with Verizon’s intent to maneuver towards elevated approved retailers.  Whatever the quantity, it’s turning into clear that digital investments (particularly people who lead to minimal in-store time) are going to extend, whereas the variety of bodily shops decreases. 

With every new yr comes government modifications, and 2023 proved to be no exception.  Stephen Bye, a long-time buddy of the Temporary, introduced that he was leaving Dish Community as their wi-fi division’s Chief Business Officer however would stay concerned as a Board member (he’s headed over to steer the Connectivity division of Ziff Davis, proprietor of Ookla and RootMetrics).  In an unsurprising growth, Comcast additionally promoted former Goldman Sachs managing director (and terrific telecom analyst) Jason Armstrong to CFO, changing Michael Cavanagh, who was not too long ago named President.  We want each properly of their new roles.    

Talking of Ziff Davis and particularly RootMetrics, the outcomes of the 2H 2022 RootScore Metro studies are as follows: 

Not surprisingly, Verizon was the general winner with 76 outright wins.  Verizon has slowly been clawing again to their dominance of 2019 and early 2020 (pre-AT&T FirstNet and pre-TMO/Dash merger).  New York Metropolis/ Tri-state, Los Angeles and Phoenix are three metro areas the place Verizon has persistently received the general RootScore award. 

The second highest frequency stays a Verizon/AT&T tie, with about one in 5 markets attaining this designation.  This class has been something however static, with AT&T and T-Cell flipping conventional Verizon strongholds like Chicago (now Verizon/ T-Cell tie), Philadelphia (now Verizon/ AT&T tie), Atlanta (now Verizon/ AT&T tie), Boston (now Verizon/ AT&T tie) and Washington DC (now Verizon AT&T tie) all shifting away from outright Verizon wins.  AT&T seems to be aiming for market tie high quality (vs. amount), and apparently is attaining it in lots of conventional Verizon incumbent phone territories.   

T-Cell began to make their transfer within the RootMetrics rankings within the first half of 2022, with 21 of 125 markets naming T-Cell as a winner (most in a tie).  That quantity held within the second half of 2022 whilst each AT&T and Verizon started to deploy C-Band spectrum.  Total, it’s nonetheless a Verizon world based on RootMetrics, however their counterparts at Ookla may see it as much less clear reduce (see right here for his or her newest US outcomes).  

CES – nonetheless value attending?  Completely.

We spent two full days at CES to start out the yr, and this yr’s present had the texture of pre-pandemic years.  Sure, there have been a number of empty sales space areas, and a smattering of masks wearers, however every of the themes we mentioned within the final Temporary had been on full show in Las Vegas.  Yearly the logistics get higher, and, with a brand new West Corridor, there are extra alternatives than ever to realize a 30,000-step day. 

The John Deere keynote (right here – begins at minute 52) highlighted the function of {hardware} growth in the way forward for agriculture.  They sort out a giant downside many farmers face in 2023 – a doubling/tripling of the price of fertilizer – by means of the implementation of leaf recognition.  Particularly, the excellence of a corn or soy leaf from all the things else (which, by definition, is a weed).  The flexibility to differentiate and instantly act (and save farmers some huge cash) separates the idea of precision herbicides from different services offered on the present.  It additionally acquired us interested by how this large-scale product may very well be “consumerized” and enhance the extremely inefficient house fertilizer course of utilized by hundreds of thousands of house owners right this moment. 

If CES 2023 is a predictor of future well being developments, we’re going to be increasing client well being care to incorporate urine evaluation.  Withings, one of many leaders in client well being care electronics within the house, launched their U-Scan product (see close by image from the present flooring).  Quite than try to outline all the medical advantages (or potential abuses) of urine evaluation, I’ll defer to this text from Daniel Cooper at Engadget – value a learn in case you are .  As proven by the image, there was a whole lot of curiosity within the know-how and, because the article suggests, different firms are leaping into the issue head on. 

Along with the Withings sales space, there was a throng of oldsters across the newest momentary tattoo know-how known as Prinker.  They had been providing free samples (we didn’t partake however many did) and the completed product was very skilled.  Every set of cartridges has sufficient ink for 1,000 tattoos, excellent in your subsequent tailgate (what may go mistaken?) and even company kickoff.  Extra on the Prinker know-how right here and it’s out there on Amazon (restricted provides) right here

As we talked about firstly of this part, issues felt extra like previous CES reveals.  The off-floor conversations had been no totally different, and the excitement round digital actuality (VR) and synthetic intelligence (AI) was actual.  Smartphone presence is diminishing (Samsung’s unboxing occasion is arising Feb 1), and laptops and gaming developments didn’t excite as a lot as previous reveals.  Smarter, extra electrified (if that’s doable), and information wealthy electronics are headed our approach – how they’ll contribute to on a regular basis productiveness and effectivity stays anybody’s guess.  

Q1 earnings hints from the Citi convention

Concurrent with the beginning of CES, Citi held a convention in Scottsdale the place AT&T, Verizon, T-Cell and others spoke.  For these of you who missed it, right here’s a abstract of the knowledge gleaned from their shows: 

Verizon led off the convention audio system with Hans Vestberg and Kyle Illness.  The headline of “constructive client postpaid cellphone internet provides” was encouraging sufficient to make the inventory pop.  Further headlines embrace:

  • 2023 is the yr of cellular edge compute and 5G non-public networks
  • Mounted Wi-fi Entry goes to proceed 3Q 2022’s energy
  • Core Capex goes to come back down for Verizon in 2024 to $17.0-$17.5 billion
  • Verizon will move 200 million C-Band POPs (the magic quantity for with the ability to tout “nationwide”) in 2023
  • Client and community enterprise models are going to be extra harmonized
  • Verizon Enterprise continues its momentum
  • Promotions are going to have extra of a short-term impression (vs. long-term amortized impacts like “free telephones”)
  • Internet additions are much less vital than base worth creation.  Hans: “We’re going to protect our premium, and we’re going to protect the expansion of our service income.”
  • No signal of fee points within the client or enterprise base
  • By finish of 2025, Verizon may have 4-5 million fastened wi-fi clients
  • $47.5-48.0 billion whole EBITDA information for 2022 stays intact and would be the foundation for 2023 EBITDA development

That’s rather a lot to say in a single convention, and it leaves a whole lot of questions on profitability and money circulate.  Our view is that Tracfone integration/ segmentation will likely be an vital a part of 2023 (Wave7 already reported in October that Walmart’s StraightTalk has launched a hard and fast wi-fi product) and a key supply of EBITDA enchancment. 

The most important query from Verizon’s Citi presentation is “How will the buyer promotional setting change?” and particularly “How will front-end loaded promotions work with handsets?”  The hangover from earlier promotional actions goes to take years to amortize, and Verizon simply accomplished a “Free iPhone 14 Professional on Us” promotion.  Verizon’s promotional technique for client goes to bear change – will others comply with?

It’s vital to notice that from the top of 2019 (pre-pandemic) to final Friday, Verizon’s fairness market capitalization has declined by $76 billion.  Throughout that very same interval (pre-pandemic, pre-Dash merger approval), T-Cell’s market capitalization has elevated $119 billion.  Practically $200 billion in relative market capitalization modifications since Jan 1, 2020 is tough to swallow for Verizon’s shareholders and Board.  There’s rather a lot to right – extra will likely be required than higher segmentation and elevated harmonization.   

Talking of T-Cell, their CFO Peter Ozvaldik took one more verbal victory lap in his Citi presentation. Listed below are their pre-released outcomes (hyperlink right here):

Account additions slowed whilst internet buyer additions improved, implying that clients both a) upgraded to a number of RGUs per account from a single RGU – suppose including cellphone accounts to a Excessive Velocity Web account, or b) added family-style accounts out of the gate, maybe on account of T-Cell’s “4 for $100” promotion.  We predict that the second possibility might need been an even bigger driver, as Peter disclosed that lower than 1% of the gross additions for the quarter truly got here from that provide (in-store upsells labored). 

Additionally of notice is the slowdown in Excessive Velocity Web buyer additions, seemingly pushed by seasonality (fewer movers throughout the winter).  T-Cell’s addition of two million Excessive Velocity Web clients is nothing wanting phenomenal contemplating the self-discipline they’re exercising in limiting development to extra capability. 

Peter additionally disclosed that T-Cell for Enterprise continues to develop but in addition implied that there’s loads of room for additional development in 2023.  He additionally indicated that they’d be updating shareholders on their share buyback program once they announce earnings. 

T-Cell’s give attention to development units up a battle with cable (particularly Constitution and Comcast) and the Tracfone division inside Verizon.  Buying Mint Cell provides a model, however their largest MVNO will do exactly tremendous on their very own in a robust, unique relationship.  Moreover the T-Cell for Enterprise integration (and an replace on their Lumen strategic partnership), our largest query facilities round how their soon-to-be majority German homeowners will change T-Cell USA’s present growth-focused technique.  We don’t see any proof but, however Deutsche Telekom might have a special view as soon as they’re in full management. 

Lastly, CFO Pascal Desroches up to date shareholders on AT&T’s progress.  Particulars had been very gentle.  Moreover using the phrase “disciplined” 4 occasions in his opening assertion, Pascal said the next with respect to wi-fi: “AT&T will now not be the share donor within the trade. We’re going to develop, commensurate with trade development.”  This appears to point that the fourth quarter, absent some iPhone 14 Professional and iPhone 14 Professional Max backlog points, will largely proceed the churn and the price developments of earlier quarters. 

On fiber, Pascal’s assertion was equally as telling: “We’ve been shocked simply how favorably fiber has been acquired. The lengthy pole tent is getting fiber to the house. As soon as it’s there, it’s a product that sells itself.”  Fairly frankly, it is a actual headscratcher to us.  AT&T has been within the broadband connectivity enterprise for at the very least 20 years – why are they shocked on the demand for well-engineered, well-deployed, well-branded new fiber?  It will likely be attention-grabbing to see the complete P&L right here together with non-fiber internet losses, however this additionally portends some excellent news once they announce outcomes. 

Lastly, on the AT&T Enterprise entrance, Pascal stated the corporate was “hit extra considerably than we anticipated by larger entry prices the place we’re utilizing third-party carriers for a few of our enterprise visitors and likewise among the public sector enterprise that we’ve carried out traditionally due to the timing of the price range cycle didn’t come by means of within the timing we anticipated.”  There’s rather a lot to parse right here, nevertheless it provides to the speculation we mentioned within the final Temporary (hyperlink above) that a part of the BlackRock Gigapower enterprise is to deal with these third-party entry prices (together with these for wi-fi) and, by doing so, enhance long-term margins.  

As Pascal said, AT&T remains to be cleansing up from the tens of billions of extra debt left over from DirecTV and WarnerMedia purchases.  The corporate will not be out of the woods but, and in-region fiber initiatives is not going to ship full discounted money circulate returns for a number of years (though EBITDA development will happen, particularly when the legacy copper networks are totally shut down).  AT&T is as a lot a narrative about deleveraging as it’s about fiber and 5G transformations.     

That’s on a regular basis and house we’ve for this week.  On January 29, we will likely be within the thick of earnings calls and we’re positive that they’ll increase extra questions.  Till then, you probably have associates who wish to be on the e-mail distribution, please have them ship an electronic mail to [email protected] and we’ll embrace them on the checklist (or they’ll join instantly by means of the web site).  Till then, Go Chiefs and Davidson Wildcat basketball!   

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