AT&T boss Randall Stephenson expressed optimism about increased investment opportunities in the US under the new Trump administration, as the operator revealed its content and media ambitions gained momentum during Q4.
Speaking on an investor call announcing the Q4 earnings, Stephenson said he was “impressed” by the new president when the two met a fortnight ago, honing in specifically on Trump’s plans to reduce corporate tax in the US.
Stephenson said such a move would have a “stimulative effect”, and AT&T would be open to stepping up its investment levels “if we had a more favourable tax environment”.
Investment in the country could also be helped by the appointment of Ajit Pai as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), added Stephenson.
Pai is expected to take a softer stance on mergers in the US, and he is also a known opponent of net neutrality rules implemented in 2015 under the former administration.
Stephenson said the company “obviously” agrees with Pai the Open Internet Order “took things too far”.
The chairman and CEO said: “There is no way anybody can argue that [current net neutrality rules] are not suppressive to investment.”
Addressing AT&T’s proposed $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, Stephenson said the company was “confident” in getting the deal approved. His bullishness comes despite comments made by Trump after his election opposing the acquisition.
AT&T is hoping to add Time Warner to its growing media portfolio, which now includes DirecTV, a pay-TV offering it bought in mid-2015.
Stephenson hailed “the really fast start” of DirecTV Now, a new streaming service launched in late November which garnered 200,000 subscribers so far. The strong growth comes despite news of teething problems with the service.
In terms of overall subscribers, the company said it clocked up 2.8 million wireless net additions during Q4, including 1.5 million in the US and 1.3 million in Mexico. The number of subscribers with an AT&T branded smartphone increased by 1.1 million during the quarter.
Breaking down the financials, revenue of $41.8 billion during Q4 2016 was slightly down on sales of $42.1 billion in Q4 2015.
Net income attributed to the company fell from $4 billion in Q4 2015 to $2.4 billion in the recent period. AT&T warned last week it would be hit by a pre-tax loss of approximately $1 billion due to annual remeasurement of pension plans.
Revenue at AT&T’s wireless unit fell a marginal 0.7 per cent year-on-year to $18.8 billion, due to a decline in wireless equipment and service revenue.