Verizon Touts Customer Loyalty In Mediocre Q4 2018 Report

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Verizon has confirmed preliminary reports of its 2018 full-year and fourth-quarter performance, centering its final earnings call for the year around strong customer loyalty and continued growth heading into 2019. Its latest official figures track very closely with the initial expectations but highlight a couple of more detailed statistics for the financial period.

The company reports that its final retail postpaid churn has remained the same from its previous estimates, landing at just 0.82-percent. That's a slight increase of the third quarter for 2018 and is up by just 0.05-percent from 2017. Overall postpaid churn fell in at 1.08-percent compared to the 1-percent churn reported for the same period in the prior year.

Retail postpaid net additions have remained flat from the previous year at 1.2 million but total postpaid smartphone net adds have increased by 226,000. The final count for the fourth quarter of 2018 fell in at 873,000.

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Total revenue growth for the wireless segment from the preceding year tallied in at 2.1 percent. Fourth quarter operating revenues were up by 0.5-percent year-over-year, landing at $34.1 billion while the full year total operating revenues were up by 3.8-percent to $130.9 billion.

Verizon also managed to reduce its overall debt in 2018 by $4.7 billion.

Not wireless = not hot

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Outside of the wireless industry, where increased competition and the race to 5G are in full swing, Verizon's performance was less exciting. Revenues for the company's wireline business fell by 3.2-percent and 3-percent for the yearly quarter-over-quarter and full year, respectively. Operating losses are noted at $273 million for both the quarter and the year.

Revenues for the third arm of Verizon's business, namely Verizon Media Group, were up over the third quarter due to seasonal changes in advertising but were down for the full year. The decrease rang in at around 5.8-percent, equating to around $2.1 billion in losses year-over-year.

With the above-mentioned increase in attention paid to 5G networking rollouts, Verizon expects capital expenditures to increase to between $17 billion and $18 billion from approximately $16.7 billion in 2018. That, in conjunction with company layoffs and continuing focus on expanding all three segments of the business, is expected to result in single-digit growth percentages across the board for 2019.

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Ready for the future – kind of

Verizon is currently in a position to offer increased competition to rivals in the smartphone carrier segment of the market but the service provider's placement at the top could become precarious in the near future. If an ongoing merger bid between T-Mobile and Sprint manages to pass scrutiny and become finalized. Although ranked dead last among other major mobile companies, Sprint's massive holdings of spectrum for 5G networks would provide number two service operator T-Mobile substantial clout to combat Verizon on that front.

On the media front, a similar situation presents itself from AT&T's merger with Time Warner. AT&T may have further sullied Verizon's prospects, hinging heavily on 5G growth and leadership. The former company's somewhat shady introduction of its 5G Evolution network — which isn't really 5G at all, in spite of its name — could cause just enough confusion around the technology to dampen any claims Verizon may have about next-generation networking.

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Each of those factors likely ties into a level of uncertainty that may be driving Verizon's expectation for the continuation of its previous single-digit growth in 2019.