Telefonica Beats, Profit Falls Y/Y - Analyst Blog

By Zacks Equity Research,

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Spanish telecom giant Telefonica ( TEF ) reported strong fiscal 2011 results. The company reported adjusted earnings of $2.31 per ADS (€1.66 per share) outpacing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.79. However, earnings per share decreased 16.4% from the prior year due to lingering domestic economic downturn, intense competition and higher operating costs.

Adjusted net income dropped 16.6% year over year to €7.5 billion ($10.5 billion) in 2011. Adjusted net income for the year excluded the one-time negative impacts from €1,870 million charge related to the provision for workforce restructuring in Spain, €481 million of Telecom Italia stake write-downs, €56 million difference in market value of the BBVA stake, €30 million of tax reassessment, and €790 million of deferred tax liability on PPA. This was partially offset by the positive impact from €184 million related to the partial reduction of exposure to Portugal Telecom, €952 million deferred tax liability related to the Vivo acquisition.

Including these special items, net income plunged to €5.403 billion ($7.5 billion) from €10.2 billion in 2010.

Consolidated revenue rose 3.5% year over year to €60.84 billion ($87.63 billion) in 2011 beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $82 billion. Despite weaker operations in Spain and Europe, Latin America drove the double-digit revenue growth.

Consolidated operating expenses increased 10.2% year over year to €44.501 billion ($62.06 billion). Adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) slid 2.1% to €22.7 billion ($31.6 billion), resulting in OIBDA margin of 36.1%, down from 38.2% last year.

Segment Results

Telefonica Espana : The operator's Spanish revenues fell 7.6% year over year to €17.3 billion ($24.1 billion), hurt by declines in both wireline and wireless businesses. Wireline revenues dropped 6.7% year over year to €10.6 billion ($14.8 billion) due to lower access, voice and Internet broadband revenues partially offset by higher data and IT revenues.

Revenues from wireless operations fell 9.4% to €7.7 billion ($10.8 billion) resulting from a reduction in mobile termination rates (MTRs). This was partially offset by strong mobile data revenues and improved handset sales.

Telefonica Europe : Revenues from Europe slid 1.3% year over year to €15.5 billion ($21.6 billion) manly due to lower MTRs. Excluding this, revenues inched up 1.7% benefiting from the successful mobile data pricing strategy.

Revenues from UK fell 2.7% year over year to €6.9 billion ($9.7 billion) in 2011. Revenues from Germany showed a 4.3% increase to reach €5 billion ($7 billion), while Ireland, and Czech Republic and Slovakia declined 14.7% and 5.5% to €723 million ($1 billion) and €2.1 billion ($3 billion), respectively.

Telefonica Latin America : Latin America continued to grow at a faster pace in fiscal 2011 and remained one of the best performing regions. Revenues climbed 13.5% year over year to €29.24 billion ($40.8 billion), driven largely by Brazil (accounting for 49% of the revenues in Latin America and representing a growth of 5.4%), followed by Argentina (14.5%), Venezuela (11.2%), Peru (6.1%), Chile (4.8%), and Columbia (4.5%). However, revenue from the key Mexico market registered a considerable decline of 12.3% due to reduced MTRs.

Revenues in Brazil (the largest market) increased 5.4% year over year to €14.3 billion ($20 billion) backed by strong commercial activity and the high adoption of new services in the second half. Telefonica's Brazilian wireless business showed a 10.6% increase in revenue to €8.4 billion ($11.8 billion) from the last year. Wireline revenues fell 1.4% year over year to €5.9 billion ($8.2 billion).

Other companies (ATENTO): ATENTO revenue increased 8.4% year over year to €1.8 million ($2.5 million).

Subscriber Statistics

At the end of 2011, total customer access reached approximately 306.6 million, up 6.7% year over year, with 9.6% and 3.2% year-over-year growth in Latin America and Europe, respectively.

On an annualized basis, mobile access rose 8% to 238.7 million customers and mobile broadband access shot up 61% to 38 million. Total retail fixed broadband access grew 5% to 18 million, driven by the rapid adoption of bundled services (voice, broadband, and television). Pay TV access reached 3.3 million, up 19% year over year. Fixed telephony access dropped 3% to 40.1 million subscribers in 2011.

Liquidity and Capital Expenditure (CapEx)

Telefonica exited the year with net debt of €56.3 billion ($78.5 billion), up from €55.6 billion at the end of 2010. The leverage ratio (net debt-to-EBITDA) was 2.63 times as of December 2011.

CapEx grew 3.3% year over year to €10.2 billion ($14.2 billion) in 2011. Despite the strong investments in spectrum, free cash flow improved to a record €9.27 billion ($12.9 billion) from €8.5 billion in the prior year.

Looking Ahead

For 2012, Telefonica expects revenue to grow at least 1% year over year with lower EBITDA margin decline. Additionally, the company expects leverage ratio (net debt-to-EBITDA) to be equivalent to 2.35 times for fiscal 2012.

Telefonica reiterated its dividend payment policy announced in December 2011. The company expects to pay a total dividend per share of €1.50 for 2012 and 2013. The company will pay a cash dividend of €1.30 per share and buy back shares with the balance.

Our Take

Telefonicaremains challenged by a weak domestic economy,the slowdown in Brazil, the ongoing reduction in mobile termination rates, a highly leveraged balance sheet and growing competition from France Telecom S.A. ( FTE ), Vodafone Group Plc ( VOD ), China Mobile Ltd. ( CHL ) and America Movil S.A.B. de C.V. ( AMX ).

However, Telefonica's presence in the strong performing Latin American region, in particular Brazil, would boost future earnings growth. Additionally, continued investments in the expansion of broadband services (both fixed and wireless) are expected to stem some of the rot in domestic operations. Further, we are impressed with the company's efforts to expand its broadband and data services in several markets. The company's increased efforts would lead to strong revenue and profitability, thereby increasing shareholder returns.

We are maintaining our long-term Neutral recommendation on Telefonica. For the short term (1-3 months), the stock also retains a Hold rating with a Zacks #3 Rank.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing , Business , Stocks
Referenced Stocks: AMX , CHL , FTE , TEF , VOD

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