Verizon earnings, revenue miss Street estimates as wireless subscribers drop

In the first quarter, Verizon said it lost 307,000 retail postpaid subscribers or those who pay a monthly bill.

Verizon Communications Inc.'s struggles worsened in the first quarter, as a decision to sell unlimited mobile data services came too late to stanch the worst subscriber loss in more than a decade.

More Verizon customers used the unlimited plan to reduce their bills - moving from expensive data plans to the cheaper unlimited one - than customers chose to pay up.

By comparison, competitor AT&T reported that it added 400,000 postpaid subscriptions in its last quarter, while the surging T-Mobile US said it added 1.2 million.

Total operating revenue dropped to $29.81 billion from $32.17 billion a year earlier.

Both the wireless and wireline businesses are under pressure, underscoring why the company is openly interested in merger and acquisition possibilities as avenues for growth.

Even though Verizon usually loses some cellular customers every quarter, it has historically lured enough back to be able to report growth in that part of its business. From carry-over data to unlimited, Verizon just didn't think they'd have to adapt. Prices for wireless telephone services fell 11.4% in March from a year earlier, after a 7% decline in February.

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Verizon's retail postpaid connections base grew 1.2 percent year over year to 108.5 million, and retail prepaid connections grew 0.5 percent to 5.4 million. Verizon blamed the decline on a drop in revenue received from overages, the cost of promoting the business, and a decline in the number of postpaid customers. Verizon gained 209,000, but that was smaller than 1.1 million gained in 2015.

Our first-quarter results again demonstrated that customers value a high-quality network experience.

Shares of Verizon fell 53 cents, or 1 percent, to close Thursday at $48.41. Hoping to make money by mining and selling customer data, Verizon has moved to purchase AOL and Yahoo for billions of dollars.

The company has also explored bigger transactions, including with Charter Communications Inc., The Wall Street Journal has reported, though executives have recently signaled the two sides are far apart.

". if there is the right opportunity out there to accelerate [Verizon's] strategy organically in a way that adds shareholder value, we're always looking at those opportunities", Verizon Chief Financial Officer Matthew Ellis explained McAdam's comments in a conference call Thursday. Analysts expected adjusted earnings per share of 99 cents and revenue of $30.77 billion.

For years, Verizon has been able to continue to add customers, even as carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint have offered comparable plans at rock bottom prices with free phone deals and other gimmicks. During the first quarter, the amount of traffic on Verizon's LTE network rose 57% year-over-year.

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