T-Mobile misses quarterly revenue estimates as competition bites

(Reuters) -T-Mobile US Inc missed fourth-quarter revenue estimates on Wednesday despite adding thousands of wireless subscribers, as competitors ramped up their holiday season handset offers to lure customers.

The U.S. wireless carrier has been adding thousands of wireless subscribers lately, thanks to discounts on smartphones, bundled offerings, industry-low plan prices and an edge in 5G, owing to its $23 billion buyout of Sprint Corp. in 2020.

However, Verizon and AT&T ramped up their handset offers during the holiday season to tap into growing demand after the latest iPhone launch, hitting T-Mobile’s torrid growth.

The carrier added 927,000 postpaid phone subscribers in the fourth quarter, the highest among its peers.

But its churn rate, which refers to the percentage of customers who stopped using the company’s services, was also the highest compared to rivals, at 0.92%. By contrast, Verizon reported churn of 0.89% for monthly phone subscribers while AT&T’s came in at 0.84%.

Moreover, industry executives have hinted at a cool-down in growth as demand for phones with video-conferencing and premium plans that supported remote work fades as offices reopen.

T-Mobile is also still growing its enterprise business to catch up with peers.

It expects to add between 5 million and 5.5 million net monthly-bill paying subscribers in 2023, compared with the 6.4 million additions it reported in 2022.

Many analysts shrugged off the tepid guidance, noting the company’s track record of starting the year off conservative and then posting beat-and-raises. T-Mobile raised it subscriber additions forecast three times in 2022.

The company earned $1.18 per share on revenue of $20.27 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $1.10 per share profit on revenue of $20.60 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Executives did not provide an update on the costs it may incur related to the data breach it reported in January, that may have exposed 37 million postpaid and prepaid accounts.

Adjusted profit after deducting lease revenues is expected to be between $28.7 billion and $29.2 billion in 2023, up 10% year over year at the mid-point, T-Mobile said.

Shares in the Bellevue, Washington-based company fell 1.6% in premarket trading. They are up about 7% so far this year.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Mark Porter)