T-Mobile on Tuesday reported strong quarterly earnings again, with third-quarter results that beat analysts’ estimates on subscribers, revenue, and EBITDA. The same day, shareholders via parent Deutsche Telekom, which owns 63.5 percent of T-Mobile’s common stock, approved the wireless operator’s proposed merger with Sprint.
“This is another step forward in creating the New T-Mobile, so we can deliver on our promise to bring robust competition to the 5G era, giving consumers more for less and creating jobs,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, in a statement about securing shareholder approval.
T-Mobile said it still expects the deal to close during the first half of 2019 after receiving the greenlight from regulators. The formal comment period closes today (Oct. 31).
As company executives continue to tout the benefits of a T-Mobile-Sprint combination, analysts say T-Mobile’s third-quarter results, which included 774,000 net postpaid phone additions, demonstrate that the carrier would still be fine on its own if the deal is rejected.
“We believe the most upside potential to TMUS exists with an S merger,” Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a Wednesday note to investors. “But as these Q3 results illustrate, TMUS has a compelling value proposition as a standalone company as well.”
T-Mobile reported total postpaid net additions of 1.08 million, far above analysts’ consensus of 850,000, and boosted by the growth of wearables. On Tuesday’s earnings call Legere said the company’s focus on underpenetrated segments like new geographies, and promotions for customers 55 years and older and member of the military, as well as T-Mobile for Business all contributed to postpaid phone net adds.
Subscriber figures were also bolstered by record-low third quarter post-paid phone churn of 1.02 percent.
Prepaid net additions of 35,000 were below Wells Fargo expectations of 93,000. Earlier in October, T-Mobile rebranded its prepaid MetroPCS business as Metro by T-Mobile, and lunched new unlimited plans that include features like Amazon Prime and Google One.
Consolidated revenue for the third quarter grew 8 percent year over year to $10.8 billion, while service revenues hit $8.1 billion, up 6 percent from a year ago. T-Mobile reported adjusted EBITDA of $3.2 billion, and diluted earnings per share of $0.93.
“T-Mobile’s Q3 results continue to make the case that T-Mobile will be a winner regardless of whether the [Sprint] deal is approved or rejected,” MoffettNathanson analysts wrote in a Tuesday research note to investors.
T-Mobile once again also raised expectations for how many postpaid subscribers the company will gain this year to between 3.8 million and 4.1 million, up from 3-3.6 million previously. EBITDA guidance was raised to $12-$12.5 billion, up from $11.5-$11.9 billion.
Executives noted that T-Mobile has nearly completed its 700 MHz deployment, while its speedy 600 MHz rollout is ongoing and live in more than 1,5000 cities. Now 21 devices support for Band 71, including the latest iPhones. T-Mobile says on a standalone basis its 5G network will be ready when the first 5G smartphones are introduced in 2019 and a nationwide network will come by 2020.
On the earnings call CTO Neville Ray noted there are also “real opportunities” in the CBRS band, likely in mid-2019 and reiterated T-Mobile’s interest in the C-band. T-Mobile recently proposed an auction-based process to make the 3.7-4.2 GHz band available for 5G services, as noted by FierceWireless.
“Obviously, we’d like to see a lot more spectrum come through than is currently being proposed by the incumbent holders on that [C-band] spectrum. We think it’s critical that more mid-band spectrum is brought to the U.S. so that we’ve got a good strong roadmap for future 5G services,” Ray said.
Even though the merger with Sprint would give T-Mobile a large holding of low and mid-band spectrum, Ray said that with or without the deal, “C-band is going to be important.”
As for cable operators entering the wireless space, Legere said T-Mobile is not feeling major pressure from Comcast, which added 228,000 Xfinity Mobile customers in Q3, and that “it’s too early to tell for Charter.”
Still, “there are clearly two additional players in the wireless space now in Comcast and Charter, and I’m sure others to follow,” Legere said.
T-Mobile itself has plans to enter the TV and in-home broadband business with a wireless offering that leverages assets from its Layer3 TV acquisition. COO Mike Sievert said the company plans to launch an in-home TV service by year-end, followed by a mobile version in 2019. More on that here.