AT&T’s stock dropped 7% Wednesday after the company reported mixed results for its first full quarter since completing its merger with WarnerMedia.
The massive purchase gave AT&T an array of media assets anchored by HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner, but it also saddled the company with a ton of debt. (CNN is part of WarnerMedia.)
AT&T added nearly 70,000 subscribers in its US postpaid phone business, which measures the number of people who pay a monthly bill — but other areas were soft. The company lost 359,000 satellite subscribers.
Analysts at the research firm MoffettNathanson said Wednesday’s results were actually better than they’ve seen recently — but expectations on AT&T are high.
The analysts also noted that many of AT&T’s businesses are “meaningfully economically sensitive,” including its wireline, wireless and DirecTV units.
That makes the company’s balance sheet an even bigger concern. While the most recent numbers were not yet available, AT&T recorded nearly $170 billion in long-term debt in June, about two weeks after it closed the WarnerMedia deal.
“AT&T will have to de-lever before economic weakness makes de-levering impossible,” the MoffettNathanson analysts wrote in a research note.
Analysts at Moody’s said the company needs to be more forceful in its public statements about cleaning up its balance sheet.
“AT&T’s mammoth balance sheet post merger could quickly test the depth of the credit markets under difficult market conditions, and its low free cash flow after dividends greatly limits financial flexibility,” they wrote in a research note Wednesday.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Wednesday that the debt was “manageable” and that he was happy with the performance in some units, including the prepaid phone business. If the company can stabilize its entertainment division, including DirecTV Now, he said the company would be in good shape.
“I think what we have to do is continue executing and posting quarters,” Stephenson said. “I actually am pleased with this quarter,” adding that as the company continues on this path, “the markets will reflect that.”