Verizon Isn’t Planning to Buy a Major Entertainment Producer ‘At This Time’

April 24, 2018, 7:49 PM UTC

Verizon’s occasional efforts to make a big acquisition appear shut down for the moment. The wireless giant has in the past reportedly explored purchasing Charter Communications (CHTR) and major pieces of 21st Century Fox, but plans on going at it alone for now, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis told analysts on Tuesday.

After Verizon announced slightly-better-than-expected first quarter results on Tuesday, analysts pushed Ellis about rumors that the company might bid for a major media company, such as 21st Century Fox (FOX). Much of Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment empire is being sold to Disney (DIS) in a $52 billion deal, but Verizon (VZ) made an earlier offer, according to some reports.

“I’m not going to comment on any specific M&A rumors,” Ellis replied. “That’s not been our policy and I’m not going to start now.”

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But when asked more generally if Verizon would follow rival AT&T’s (T) example to buy a major entertainment company, Ellis said the company did not see anything worth acquiring at this time. AT&T is paying $109 billion including debt for Time Warner (TWX), though the deal is being held up by regulatory concerns.

“I would certainly say not at this time,” Ellis said. “When we look at the landscape out there, it is evolving very fast. And I’m not going to say never or anything, but when I look at right now in the foreseeable future I don’t see that being the right time to jump in.”

Investors should be supportive of the go-it-alone strategy because Verizon can succeed without buying a media company, according to analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson Research. “In a sector chock full of M&A stories, it is perhaps to be expected that Verizon is constantly at the center of M&A speculation,” Moffett noted in a report on Tuesday. “This speculation owes more to the fact that every potential seller needs a buyer–there are many more sellers than buyers right now–than it does to any particular strategic need for Verizon.”

Most of the wireless industry is looking for new markets, as the number of cell phones now far exceeds the number of people in the United States and revenue growth is hard to find. AT&T is venturing into entertainment and T-Mobile (TMUS) has said it wants to start competing with the cable TV industry. At the same time, wireless carriers are spending billions to upgrade their networks to faster 5G technology.

Verizon has already said it plans to offer a home-pay TV service via the 5G capability and also wants to sell an Internet-based cable-like offering, known in the industry as an “over the top,” or OTT, service.“We continue to look at OTT options,” Ellis said on Tuesday. “As we said previously, we’re not looking to launch a me-too product.”

Verizon said earlier on Tuesday that its first quarter revenue grew 7% to $31.8 billion, better than the $31.3 billion analysts expected. Adjusted net income of $1.17 per share was also better than the $1.10 analysts expected. The carrier lost a net 24,000 postpaid phone customers and 75,000 connected tablet customers, but added 359,000 other connected devices, primarily wearables like the Apple Watch.

Shares of Verizon rose 1% in midafternoon trading, leaving them down 5% so far this year.

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