Wireless network operator T-Mobile US (NASDAQ:TMUS) reported results for the fourth quarter and full year of 2014 this morning. By 10:30 a.m. the stock was up 3.5% from the previous close.. The stock is hitting levels not seen since August of last year, when rumors of a pending buyout finally lost traction.
As announced in a preliminary report, T-Mobile added 2.1 million net new customers in the quarter. Postpaid net additions rose to 1.3 million in a 47% year-over-year jump.
The company outclassed the rest of the wireless industry with these subscriber additions. AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) added comparable numbers of new subscribers in the same period, but delivered only 854,000 and 672,000 postpaid wins, respectively. Sprint (NYSE:S) celebrated its first positive subscriber trends in several years but barely passed the breakeven point in terms of the postpaid contracts gold standard.
These figures are not exactly new news, since they all lined up with early estimates.
Despite the plethora of pre-announced numbers, there was still plenty of room for T-Mobile to surprise investors and analysts.
The usual financial headline figures left analysts flat-footed, for starters. Analysts had been looking for earnings of $0.09 per share on $7.9 billion in total sales. Instead, T-Mobile turned the year-ago period's $0.12 loss per share into $0.12 of positive earnings per diluted share. Total revenues rose 19% to land at $8.2 billion.
The MetroPCS network, acquired in 2013, saw a continued flow of customers converting to prepaid services under the T-Mobile brand. This trend is turning into a forced march, as T-Mobile hopes to close down the last of its MetroPCS CDMA networks in the second half of 2015. Doing so will allow the company to reassign MetroPCS bandwidth to support T-Mobile's core 4G LTE network instead.
This conversion is actually running ahead of schedule. T-Mobile originally expected MetroPCS synergies to deliver between $6 billion and $7 billion in total net value, but it has now raised that range to top out at $10 billion.
Average revenues per branded postpaid user declined 5.6% year over year. This apparent weakness was countered by a 20% surge in billings under equipment installment plans, where users pay down their handsets and other equipment via two years of interest-free installments. Taken together, average monthly billings per customer rose by 5.1%.
Never afraid to gloat a little, T-Mobile also provided this concise overview of revenue growth trends across the industry:
"Our Un-carrier moves helped us blow away the competition," added T-Mobile US CEO John Legere in a prepared statement. "The best is yet to come as the future looks bright in 2015."