DirecTV Sets $3.5 Billion Buyback as Sales Beat Estimates

DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite-TV provider, said it will buy back $3.5 billion of stock after fourth-quarter sales exceeded analysts’ estimates on stronger than expected U.S. subscriber growth.

Sales rose 6.7 percent to $8.59 billion, the El Segundo, California-based company said today in a statement. Analysts were expecting $8.48 billion on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

DirecTV is seeking more growth in the U.S., where subscribers pay more per month, as steeper competition cuts into its expansion in Latin America. In the U.S., DirecTV added 93,000 pay-TV subscribers, better than the 21,000 new customers that 11 analysts had estimated on average. The satellite-TV provider uses exclusive programming such as National Football League games to lure customers.

“Stronger U.S. subscriber growth is a positive and means they are taking market share from cable,” David Heger, an analyst with Edward Jones & Co., said in an interview before DirecTV’s results were released. Satellite-TV competitor Dish Network Corp. “is likely to have the same results.”

On an earnings conference call today, DirecTV said it would at a minimum maintain its pay-TV market share in the U.S. this year. In Latin America, the company expects to add 1 million net new users this year.

DirecTV signed up 231,000 new customers in Latin America in the fourth quarter, less than the 332,000 average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. A year ago, DirecTV added 103,000 new customers in the U.S.

DirecTV reported fourth-quarter net income of $810 million, or $1.53 a share, down from $942 million a year, or $1.55, a year earlier.

The shares rose 2.9 percent to $75.08 in New York today and are up 8.7 percent this year.

Satellite-TV peer Dish is scheduled to report earnings before U.S. markets open tomorrow.

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