AT&T adds wireless subscribers in 5G push, new movies boost HBO Max

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for AT&T is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) -AT&T Inc's quarterly revenue and phone subscriber additions beat market expectations on Thursday, on increased demand for its phone and internet service and steady growth for its streaming platform HBO Max.

Shares of AT&T rose 1% to $26.17 in pre-market trading.

Total revenue was $39.9 billion in the third quarter, exceeding analysts' average estimate of $39.14 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Telecom operators, including AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc, have been unwinding their expensive media businesses to direct their investment on phone and internet services.

With a debt pile of $179.2 billion as of Sept. 30, AT&T too has been under pressure to sell less profitable businesses and spend more on 5G and other wireless services.

These investments have paid off as the wireless carrier added 928,000 net new phone subscribers who pay a monthly bill, well above quarterly expectations of 560,000, according to data from research firm FactSet.

Rival carrier Verizon added 429,000 subscribers in its latest quarter.

Media companies have also been trying to beat competition and grow by investing heavily in content and international expansion.

Total global subscribers for AT&T's premium TV channel HBO and streaming service HBO Max grew by 1.9 million from the previous quarter to 69.4 million, as viewers flocked to watch television shows like "White Lotus" and superhero movie "The Suicide Squad".

Revenue for WarnerMedia was $8.4 billion during the quarter.

In May, AT&T announced it would spin off its media assets in a $43 billion deal with Discovery, marking the end of its goal to become an entertainment powerhouse.

Net income attributable to the company's common stock rose to $5.9 billion, or 82 cents per share, in the quarter, from $2.8 billion, or 39 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, AT&T earned 87 cents per share, beating analyst estimates of 78 cents per share.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Susan Fenton)

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