Verizon (NYSE:VZ) closed out what the company called a "transformational" year by posting $0.89 in adjusted EPS (non-GAAP), a 25.4% increase compared with adjusted $0.71 the same quarter of 2014.
In addition to spending $4 billion to buy AOL, the company also spent $28 billion in spectrum licenses and capital for future network capacity. It also launched go90, a mobile video platform, and maintained a slight lead over AT&T (NYSE:T), T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS), and Sprint (NYSE:S) on the latest RootMetrics Mobile Network Performance In the U.S. report.
That's important for Verizon which built its current advertising around the results using the phrase "better matters." These ads -- along with claims that its "better" networks are a reason to pay more to stay -- helped Verizon add 1.5 million retail postpaid net additions in Q4 and 4.5 million for the full year despite increased price-based pressure from T-Mobile and Sprint.
In the company's Q4 earnings release, CEO Lowell McAdam seemed pleased with how things are going.
"In 2015, Verizon delivered strong and balanced results in a dynamic competitive environment while returning more than $13.5 billion to shareholders," he said, "At the same time, Verizon built and acquired next-generation network capabilities that position the company to be an innovator in the digital-first mobile world in 2016 and beyond,"
McAdam ceded the spotlight to CFO Fran Shammo who talked about the year ahead as well as the company's continued plans to stay on top during a call with analysts immediately after the Q4 results were released.
The company has a three-tiered strategy
Shammo kicked off his remarks by explaining that in 2016 the company has a three-tiered strategy of "leading at the network connectivity level in the markets we serve, developing new business models through global platforms in video and Internet of Things, and creating certain opportunities and applications and content for incremental monetization."
He added that he believes the company executes well which lets it "compete effectively in every market condition and build our capabilities for future growth and profitability as an innovator in the digital-first mobile world in 2016 and beyond."
Network spending is going to continue
While Verizon invested heavily in both network infrastructure and wireless spectrum in 2015, Shammo believes it will have to continue doing that in order to maintain a top position. He also said that increased consumer consumption of data and the growing prevalence of Internet of Things-enabled devices will require continued investment.
He expects the company to do that while also continuing its dividend while also buying back shares, and paying down debt.
"We continued to execute a disciplined capital allocation model with the priority to invest for the future," he said. "During 2015, we announced the divestiture of certain wire line properties to Frontier and intend to use the proceeds to pay down debt."
Shammo also reiterated the company's previously announced plan to raise its dividend by 2.7% to $2.26 per share on an annual basis, marking the ninth consecutive year the company has done that.
The company believes in advertising
Verizon bought AOL and launched go90 partly to diversify its revenue and make the company less dependent on subscribers.
"We believe there is a significant opportunity in using the programmatic platform with the data from the wireless customer base to connect consumers and advertisers in a very targeted and scaled way with relevant and engaging ad experiences while protecting individual privacy," Shammo said.
He specifically noted that go90 will let the company "capture and aggregate audience, deliver mobile-first content, and generate incremental revenue via advertising," he added.
The CFO also said the company plans to add more content partners for go90 in the coming year. In addition, he expressed excitement over its new FreeBee Data offering which allows companies to sponsor content to Verizon customers which they can watch without it counting against their data allotment.
Unlimited plans are not coming back
One of the more interesting things Shammo said happened in an interview with CNET after the earnings call, The CFO shut down any notion that the company would follow T-Mobile and Sprint -- who both offer unlimited data plans regularly or even AT&T which has reinstated the offer for people who also subscribe to its DirecTV service.
"At this point, we are not going to entertain unlimited," Shammo said.
The CFO acknowledged that his competitors try lots of things but was fairly dismissive about their efforts.
"Promotions come and go," he said. "We can't react to everything in the marketplace."