AT&T CEO Talks Bill Paying Customers, Apple’s New iPhones and Life After Time Warner

AT&T CEO John Stankey no longer has to deal with Time Warner’s media, but he still has a ton on his plate.

The executive’s agenda touches on a wide range of topics, from investing billions in 5G infrastructure to monitoring early demand for the Apple iPhone 14. But it’s Stankey’s observations about whether consumers pay their phone bills on time which have attracted the attention of investors in recent years weeks.

“We haven’t seen any change in trend,” Stankey told Yahoo Finance Live at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology conference on Monday (video above). “It hasn’t gotten any worse, and frankly, we wouldn’t expect it to.”

On July 21, the telecom giant’s stock fell 7% after the company disclosed in its second-quarter earnings that customers were paying their bills about two days later compared to trends seen a year earlier. That in turn caused AT&T to cut its full-year free cash flow guidance by $2 billion.

Investors read the report as a signal that AT&T will delay reducing its increased debt position and bringing back a more generous dividend after it halved in February, among other things.

“I would say a lot of that impact has been the parts of the economy and consumers that are maybe a little more strapped and living paycheck to paycheck,” Stankey said, short of saying the economy is in recession.

Stankey also noted that the difficult economic environment has not dampened demand for Apple’s iPhones. So far, he said, pre-orders for the new iPhone 14 series have met expectations.

“Certainly, there’s been a lot of activity,” he said. “It was consistent with what we would expect. There is always a lot of interest on the front end of an Apple release.”

Stankey added that, overall, he is pleased with the progress the business has made. A year ago, the CEO expressed his displeasure at the same Goldman Sachs conference.

AT&T CEO John Stankey speaks at a panel on September 28, 2016 in New York. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York)

A lot has changed in the past year for the telecom giant, including the completion of the merger between Warner Media and Discovery in April. Stankey explained that the spin-off improved AT&T’s balance sheet and helped steer the company.

“I felt focus was very important and I didn’t think I could do my best work or the broader management team could do their best if we were trying to fight too many battles on too many fronts,” Stankey reflected on the deal. . . “I think we’re a more focused company today. I think we execute every week better than the week before.”

He emphasized that the company is “in a better place” this time.

“We have the best fixed broadband product on the market,” he said. “Our customers are saying that in high net promoter scores. We’re showing high volumes and gaining market share and we feel really good about that. We’ve seen improved sentiment in the wireless industry as well. So strong recovery in that regard, and we’re reducing difference from our competitors. And I feel honestly, we are in a very good position. So I like the momentum and the progress. We still have a little work to do, as always, but very good progress.”

Brian Sozzi is editor-in-chief and Anchor on Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and up LinkedIn.

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