Time Warner Cable Falls as Subscriber Adds Miss Estimates

Time Warner Cable Inc., the second-largest U.S. cable-television provider, fell in New York trading after adding fewer customers than projected last quarter.

The shares fell 0.6 percent to $92.19 at the close. The stock has fallen 5.1 percent this year, compared with an 11 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

The New York-based cable provider has lost video customers for 16 consecutive quarters, dating back to 2009, as consumers switch to rival services such as Verizon Communications Inc.’s FiOS and AT&T Inc.’s U-verse. Time Warner Cable also has been less aggressive with promotions and discounts, causing some budget-minded customers to leave.

“Time Warner Cable reported a disappointing first quarter against a backdrop of low market expectations for both financial and subscriber results,” Bryan Kraft, an analyst at Evercore Partners Inc. in New York, said in a note to clients. “Management had warned about the impact of promotional subscriber roll-offs having an unusually large impact on churn this quarter.”

Time Warner Cable added 131,000 residential Internet users, missing the average analyst estimate of 160,000. Video customers declined by 119,000 in the period, more than the 92,000 loss projected by 12 analysts on average.

Telecom Gains

Verizon’s FiOS added 188,000 broadband customers and 169,000 TV subscribers last quarter. U-verse gained 232,000 video customers and 731,000 Internet subscribers. Those gains don’t include subscribers using older DSL Internet technology, a number that is shrinking for both phone companies. Time Warner Cable competes with FiOS in New York and both FiOS and U-verse in Los Angeles.

AT&T decreased its price for its so-called triple-play and double-play packages in the quarter, Rob Marcus, Time Warner Cable’s chief operating officer, said during a conference call. Cable and some telecommunications companies bundle TV, Internet and landline phone together for a triple play, while two of those products make up a double play.

Time Warner Cable lost 35,000 residential phone customers, the first quarterly decline since 2011.

“Many customers chose not to take phone and instead spent money on incremental Internet speeds,” Marcus said.

Defections to Google Inc.’s Google Fiber in the Kansas City, Missouri, area have been “de minimis,” Marcus said, as only 2.5 percent of Time Warner Cable’s subscribers in the region have switched.

Net Income

Even with disappointing subscriber numbers, Time Warner Cable boosted profit. Excluding one-time costs, earnings were $1.41 a share, beating the $1.37 average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg. Net income rose to $401 million, or $1.34 a share, from $382 million, or $1.20 a share, a year earlier, the company said in a statement.

Sales rose 6.6 percent to $5.48 billion, compared with the $5.49 billion average analyst estimate. Business services rose 25 percent to $537 million.

Time Warner Cable repurchased shares for $660 million in the quarter, compared with the previous period’s $571 million.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.