DirecTV Shares Slump After U.S. Subscriber Gains Miss Estimates

Thursday, 04 Aug 2011 10:09 AM

 

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DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite- television provider, had its biggest drop in more than two years in Nasdaq trading after adding fewer U.S. customers than analysts estimated in the second quarter.

DirecTV said today it added 26,000 users in the U.S. and 472,000 in Latin America. The U.S. gains missed the average analyst estimate of 57,000, according to Ryan Vineyard, an RBC Capital Markets analyst in New York. The shortfall may have occurred due to a lack of special promotions in the quarter, said Tom Eagan, an analyst at Collins Stewart LLC in New York.

Investors may be concerned that customers are leaving for cable-TV carriers that offer TV service bundled with Internet access, a package that El Segundo, California-based DirecTV doesn’t offer, Eagan said.

“The stock will pull back today because the bear case for DirecTV is that they’re structurally impaired versus a cable operator because they don’t have broadband,” said Eagan, who has a “buy” rating on the shares.

Churn, the percentage of customers who left the service, accelerated to 1.59 percent, higher than the 1.47 percent estimate of Citigroup Inc. analyst Jason Bazinet in New York.

DirecTV slumped $2.64, or 5.3 percent, to $46.84 at 9:40 a.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. It earlier fell as much as 13 percent, the biggest intraday drop since May 2009. The shares had gained 24 percent this year before today.

Economic Woes

A sluggish U.S. economy may also prompt consumers to pull back on paying for TV, Eagan said. The economy grew at a 1.3 percent pace in April-June following revised growth of 0.4 percent in the first three months of the year that was slower than previously estimated, the Commerce Department reported last week. The jobless rate is holding above 9 percent.

Time Warner Cable Inc. said last week it lost 130,000 residential video subscribers in the second quarter and Comcast Corp. yesterday said it dropped 238,000.

DirecTV’s net income climbed 29 percent to $701 million, or 91 cents a share, from $543 million, or 42 cents, a year earlier. Analysts projected profit of 85 cents a share, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Sales increased to $6.6 billion from $5.85 billion, beating the $6.54 billion analysts projected. Subscriber growth in Latin America rose to a record, the company said.

“Latin America is still the jewel of DirecTV,” said Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, who has a “market perform” rating on shares.

DirecTV spent $1.51 billion to buy back shares, part of a $6 billion repurchase program announced in February.

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