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AT&T's race with cable, equipment writedown hurt annual profit forecast

Credit: REUTERS/RICK WILKING

Adds revenue details in paragraph 9, profit comparisons in paragraph 10; updates share movement in paragraph 1

Jan 24 (Reuters) - U.S. carrier AT&T T.N forecast annual profit below market estimates on Wednesday as it lowers the value of its old equipment and grapples with competition from cable operators, sending its shares down nearly 4% in premarket trading.

The writedown of Nokia equipment will reduce annual earnings per share by nearly 17 cents and comes as AT&T shifts to new lower-cost ORAN technology, or open radio access network.

It chose EricssonERICb.ST in December to build a telecom network using ORAN that would cover 70% of its wireless traffic in the U.S. by late 2026 and could cost as much as $14 billion.

AT&T said it expected adjusted profit to be between $2.15 and $2.25 per share in 2024, falling short of estimates of $2.46, according to LSEG data.

The profit expectation was also lower than last year's figure of $2.57 and stood in contrast to the market-beating forecast from Verizon VZ.N on Tuesday.

Analysts said the race with cable operators could also hurt the growth of the carriers as companies such as Charter Communications CHTR.O look to take market share with a competitive network and pricing.

Despite the pressure, AT&T's subscriber base grew in the fourth quarter. It added 526,000 net monthly bill-paying wireless phone subscribers, higher than expectations for 495,830 additions, according to Visible Alpha.

Recent price hikes and a move by consumers to higher-priced plans helped its average revenue per user rise 1.4% in the period.

Total revenue rose 2.2% to $32 billion, beating analysts' average estimate of $31.48 billion, according to LSEG data.

But its adjusted profit of 54 cents was below Wall Street expectations of 56 cents.

AT&T said it expects to return to profit growth in 2025.

(Reporting by Samrhitha Arunasalam and Harshita Mary Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

((Samrhitha.A@thomsonreuters.com))

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

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