Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. TDS reported relatively modest fourth-quarter 2018 results with year-over-year increase in revenues and adjusted earnings. However, both the bottom line and the top line missed the respective Zacks Consensus Estimate in the quarter.
GAAP net income came in at $16 million or 14 cents per share compared with $287 million or $2.54 per share in the year-ago quarter primarily due to higher operating expenses and lower income tax benefit. However, non-GAAP earnings improved to 14 cents per share from 5 cents in the year-earlier quarter. The bottom line missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 16 cents. For full-year 2018, GAAP net income was $135 million or $1.17 per share compared with $153 million or $1.37 per share in 2017.
Quarterly total operating revenues were $1,332 million compared with $1,308 million in the prior-year quarter. The top line missed the consensus estimate of $1.34 billion. For full-year 2018, the company generated revenues of $5,109 million compared with $5,044 million a year ago.
By segments, operating revenues from U.S. Cellular division were $1,051 million, up 2.1% year over year. Total operating expenses increased to $881 million from $877 million. Operating income was $3 million against a loss of $4 million in the year-ago quarter. Postpaid average revenue per user improved to $45.58 from $44.12, while average revenue per account was up to $119.60 from $118.05.
Operating revenues were $232 million, up 1.3% year over year primarily driven by strong increases in broadband connections. Revenues from wireline were $173 million, down 1.7% due to lower ILEC sale as the company focused to pursue commercial fiber. Cable revenues were $60 million, reflecting an increase of 11.1%, primarily driven by growth in residential connections.
Cash Flow and Liquidity
In 2018, Telephone and Data Systems generated $1,017 million of cash from operating activities compared with $776 million a year ago. Free cash flow (non-GAAP) for 2018 totaled $241 million compared with $91 million in 2017.
As of Dec 31, 2018, the company had $921 million of cash and cash equivalents with $2,418 million of long-term debt compared with respective tallies of $619 million and $2,437 million on Dec 31, 2017.
For full-year 2019, Telephone and Data Systems expects total operating revenues in the range of $5,225-$5,475 million. Adjusted EBITDA is projected to be $1,185-$1,365 million, while capital expenditure is estimated to be in the range of $940-$1,090 million. The company projects adjusted OIBDA in the band of $1,000-$1,180 million.
Zacks Rank and Stocks to Consider
Telephone and Data Systems currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Some better-ranked stocks in the broader industry are Ameren Corporation AEE, Atlantica Yield plc AY and Alliant Energy Corporation LNT, each carrying a Zacks Rank #2(Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Ameren has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 6.8%. It beat earnings estimates thrice in the trailing four quarters, the average positive surprise being 8.6%.
Atlantica Yield has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 50.8%.
Alliant Energy has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 6%.
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