Pity poor Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) . You just can't impress investors these days with your tales of smashing growth in the wireless and fiber-optic services business.
While Verizon Communications reported second-quarter earnings this morning that largely showed a continuance of the same trends that have developed for the past few years, Wall Street nonetheless sneered at the 21% drop in profits and focused instead on the announcement that another 8,000 jobs would be shed to cut costs.
Never mind that Verizon added another 1.1 million net new customers to the wireless business that it runs with partner Vodafone (NYSE: VOD ) , keeping it well ahead of main competitor AT&T (NYSE: T ) . Nor that it tacked on another 300,000 FiOS TV and 303,000 FiOS Internet customers, net of cancellations. The mainstream story today was all about how rapidly the traditional wireline business is shrinking. Factoring out the Alltel acquisition, the top line increased a meager 1.9% while the bottom line suffered from hefty severance charges.
Verizon is moving to shed the growth anchors though -- it recently agreed to a deal with Frontier Communications (NYSE: FTR ) that offloaded 4.8 million rural phone lines. Frontier's specialty is making a business out of rural telecommunications assets, so those lines are probably better off out of Verizon's hands anyway.
And though rumors continue to run rampant that the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone itself may come someday to the Verizon network, I still don't think they need it to run an efficient and profitable wireless business. The wireless segment is holding up just fine with its rock-bottom churn hovering around 1.4%, thanks in part to a lineup that includes Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerries as well as Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) , LG, and Samsung smartphones.
Granted, the company is operating in the midst of some turmoil -- with the Alltel integration still underway and plenty of hiring and firing going on across divisions, Verizon is going to show some near-term financial pain. But the company still managed to generate $6 billion in free cash flow so far in 2009, $1.8 billion more than in the first half of 2008. With a strong 5.8% dividend yield on shares and the cash backing it up, this Fool is willing to overlook the near-term hiccups.
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