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AT&T Stock Sags Despite Revenue, Subscriber Gains

Investors may be concerned that the company added more subscribers through connected devices like tablets than through phones.

AT&T’s stock fell in after-hours trading, even though the nation’s second-largest carrier posted its strongest revenue growth in two years, as it added more than one million subscribers.

First-quarter revenue reached $32.5 billion, up 3.6 percent from a year earlier, amid strong consumer response to new programs such as AT&T Next. The company raised its outlook for the year, projecting revenue growth of four percent or greater.

Profit for the quarter fell to $3.65 billion, down from $3.7 billion a year ago. On a per-share basis, though, profit rose to 70 cents from 67 cents in the first quarter of 2013.

AT&T said it added 625,000 postpaid subscribers — typically the industry’s most desirable, affluent customers. That’s more than double the gains made at the same time a year ago. It added even more subscribers — 693,000 — through connected devices, such as tablets and e-readers.

These subscriber gains helped to offset losses in prepaid customers and declines in 2G accounts.

But the growth in AT&T’s connected devices, rather than core (and potentially higher revenue) phone customers, may have caused the company’s stock to fall to $35.50, a drop of 79 cents, in after-hours trading.

“AT&T is setting itself up to continue growing as smartphone growth slows,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst for Jackdaw Research. “But Verizon and T-Mobile have been reporting higher numbers of smartphone net adds, so that might be spooking some investors.”

AT&T said the number of consumers using its Mobile Share plans — which provide pricing for voice, data and text alone, without factoring in the cost of a device — are gaining popularity. The number of accounts more than tripled in the last year, reaching 11.3 million.

The AT&T Next installment payment plan for equipment also is catching on, accounting for 40 percent of the smartphones added or upgraded in the first quarter.

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