Cell tower and long-range fiber network manager Crown Castle International (NYSE:CCI) reported earnings on Wednesday evening, covering the third quarter of fiscal 2018. In a rather uneventful reporting period, the company simply continued to run a steady ship while finishing up the integration of last year's network acquisitions.

Crown Castle's third-quarter results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q3 2018

Q3 2017

Year-Over-Year Change

Site rental revenue

$1.18 billion

$893 million

33%

Total revenue

$1.38 billion

$1.06 billion

30%

Net income attributable to common shareholders

$136 million

$85 million

60%

Adjusted funds from operations (AFFO)

$579 million

$459 million

26%

AFFO per share (diluted)

$1.39

$1.16

20%

GAAP earnings per share (diluted)

$0.33

$0.21

57%

Data source: Crown Castle International.

What happened with Crown Castle this quarter?

  • Management had expected to see site rental revenue of roughly $1.18 billion in the third quarter, driving AFFO to roughly $573 million and AFFO per share to $1.38. The actual results hewed close to these estimates, often with a small surprise on the positive side.
  • Crown Castle's year-over-year growth continues to rest on last fall's shopping spree, in which the company spent $7.1 billion to pick up a metro fiber network in the Northeast.
  • Beyond the buyout boost, the company reported $52 million in organic revenue growth in comparison with the year-ago quarter. These gains centered on new leases in existing sites, with a smaller contribution from customers renewing their contracts at more generous terms.
A cell tower with many radio modules in stark silhouette against a colorful sunset.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

In a prepared statement, CFO Dan Schlanger explored how his company's business model supports a generous dividend policy: "We believe we are in a great position to continue to deliver on our growth targets and invest for the future, while returning capital to our shareholders through a high quality and growing dividend. Since 2014, and inclusive of the dividend increase we are announcing today, we have increased our dividend by a compounded annual growth rate of approximately 8%, and we believe we are well positioned to deliver on our 7% to 8% long-term annual dividend growth target going forward."

As part of that ambition, the company recently raised its quarterly dividend payouts by 7%. The next dividend payments of $1.05 per common share are payable on Dec. 31. The effective dividend yield now stands at an even 4%.

Looking ahead

Crown Castle's management now expects full-year site rental revenue of approximately $4.70 billion, inching up from a $4.69 billion target three months ago. The full-year AFFO projection held firm at $2.28 billion.

In order to reach these targets, Crown Castle is aiming for fourth-quarter site rental revenue near $1.19 billion and AFFO profits in the neighborhood of $596 million.

Anders Bylund has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Crown Castle International. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.