U.S. Cellular Reports Third Quarter 2012 Results Announces Transaction to Exit Certain Midwest Markets

CHICAGO, Nov. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

Note: Comparisons are year over year unless otherwise noted.

3Q 2012 Highlights

  • Retail gross additions increased 23 percent resulting in a net gain of 19,000 retail customers, compared to a net loss of 23,000 retail customers.
  • Postpaid gross additions increased 7 percent and postpaid churn increased to 1.7 percent, resulting in a net loss of 38,000 postpaid customers in the quarter.  Postpaid customers comprised 93 percent of retail customers.
  • Prepaid gross additions increased 71 percent, driven by the introduction of U Prepaid in select Walmart stores, and prepaid churn decreased to 5.9 percent, resulting in a net increase of 57,000 prepaid customers in the quarter.
  • Total revenues increased 3 percent; service revenues remained steady at $1,036.4 million.
  • Postpaid ARPU (average revenue per user) increased 4 percent to $54.34 from $52.41; total ARPU increased 3 percent to $59.57 from $58.09.
  • Postpaid smartphone customers increased to 38.6 percent of customers from 26.2 percent. Smartphones as a percent of total devices sold increased to 53.0 percent from 39.9 percent; 50 percent of smartphones sold were 4G.
  • Cell sites in service increased 2 percent to 7,984, of which 4,545 are owned towers.
  • 4G LTE network now covers 30 percent of customers; expect to reach 58 percent of customers by year end.

As previously announced, U.S. Cellular will hold a teleconference Nov. 7, 2012 at 7:30 a.m. CST. Interested parties may listen to the call live by accessing the Investor Relations page of www.uscellular.com or www.teldta.com.

United States Cellular Corporation (NYSE: USM) reported service revenues of $1,036.4 million for the third quarter of 2012 and $1,036.6 million in the comparable period one year ago. Net income attributable to U.S. Cellular shareholders and related diluted earnings per share were $35.5 million and $0.42, respectively, for the third quarter of 2012, compared to $62.1 million and $0.73, respectively, in the comparable period one year ago.

"We achieved some positive milestones in the quarter, including retail customer growth driven by strong results in the prepaid segment of our business, and migration of customers to our 4G LTE network," said Mary N. Dillon, U.S. Cellular president and CEO, "though postpaid churn remained elevated and profitability was impacted by device subsidies and the expected decline in regulatory support.

"Sales of our U Prepaid service at Walmart drove prepaid net additions. We're now leveraging this important distribution channel to offer postpaid service in more than 400 Walmart stores, and we'll continue to explore new opportunities to bring our services and products to more customers.

"We increased gross postpaid customers seven percent through effective marketing and sales programs such as our new Hello Better advertising campaign and by offering high-demand devices like the Samsung Galaxy S® III, though our postpaid churn rate remained high. Profitability declined, however, as we incurred higher subsidies to encourage adoption of 4G LTE devices, which represented 50 percent of smartphone sales. While the cost to subsidize these devices has a short-term impact on profitability, we expect longer-term benefits as customers migrate to the more efficient 4G LTE network, including growth in ARPU and lower capital expenditures for our legacy networks."

U.S. Cellular Strategic Actions

In a separate release, U.S. Cellular also announced today two strategic actions designed to increase focus on markets where it has strong positions and streamline operations to increase overall efficiency and effectiveness. The company has entered into a definitive agreement with Sprint, who will purchase its customers and PCS spectrum in certain Midwest markets. U.S. Cellular will also transition the operations of its Bolingbrook, Ill., customer care center to an existing vendor partner. Further information can be found on the U.S. Cellular Investor Relations website.

Guidance for year ending Dec. 31, 2012                             

Guidance for the year ending Dec. 31, 2012, as of Nov. 7, 2012, before the effects of the Sprint Transaction is provided below, compared to the previous guidance provided on Aug. 3, 2012. U.S. Cellular undertakes no duty to update such information, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.  There can be no assurance that final results will not differ materially from this guidance. 

2012 Estimated Results (1)

Previous Estimates (2)

Service revenues

$4,075-$4,125 million

$4,050-$4,150 million

Operating income (3)

$200-$250 million

$200-$300 million

Depreciation, amortization and accretion expenses,

   and impairment of assets and net gain

   or loss on asset disposals and exchanges (3)

Approx. $600 million


Adjusted OIBDA (3) (4)

$800-$850 million

$800-$900 million

Capital expenditures

Approx. $850 million



These estimates are based on U.S. Cellular's current plans, which include a multi-year deployment of 4G LTE technology which commenced in 2011.  New developments or changing conditions (such as customer net growth, customer demand for data services or possible acquisitions, dispositions or exchanges) could affect U.S. Cellular's plans and, therefore, its 2012 estimated results. These estimates are before the effects of the definitive agreement signed with Sprint, who will purchase U.S. Cellular customers and PCS Spectrum in certain Midwest markets. The Company expects to incur incremental operating expenses in the fourth quarter of 2012 in the range of $30 to $60 million for severance, incremental accelerated depreciation, asset write-downs and other costs related to this transaction, which will decrease Operating income, increase Depreciation, amortization and accretion expenses, and impairment of assets and net gain or loss on asset disposals and exchanges, and decrease OIBDA.   


The 2012 Estimated Results as disclosed in U.S. Cellular's Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ended June 30, 2012.


The 2012 Estimated Results do not include any estimate for unrecognized net gains or losses related to disposals and exchanges of assets or losses on impairment of assets (since such transactions and their effects are uncertain).


Adjusted OIBDA is defined as operating income excluding the effects of: depreciation, amortization and accretion (OIBDA); the loss on impairment of assets (if any); and the net gain or loss on asset disposals and exchanges (if any).  Adjusted OIBDA excludes the loss on impairment of assets (if any) and net gain or loss on asset disposals and exchanges (if any) in order to show operating results on a more comparable basis from period to period.  U.S. Cellular does not intend to imply that any of such amounts that are excluded are non-recurring, infrequent or unusual; such gains or losses may occur in the future.

Adjusted OIBDA may also be commonly referred to by management as operating cash flow. U.S. Cellular believes this measure provides useful information to investors regarding U.S. Cellular's financial condition and results of operations because it highlights certain key cash and non-cash items and their impacts on cash flows from operating activities. This amount should not be confused with Cash flows from operating activities, which is a component of the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.

Conference call information

U.S. Cellular will hold a conference call on Nov. 7, 2012 at 7:30 a.m. CST.

Before the call, certain financial and statistical information to be discussed during the call will be posted to the Investor Relations page of www.uscellular.com. The call will be archived on the Conference Calls page of www.uscellular.com.

About U.S. Cellular

United States Cellular Corporation, the nation's seventh-largest wireless carrier, provides a comprehensive range of wireless products and services, excellent customer support, and a high-quality network to approximately 5.8 million customers in 26 states. The Chicago-based company employed approximately 8,400 people as of Sept. 30, 2012. At the end of the third quarter of 2012, Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. owned 84 percent of U.S. Cellular.

Visit www.uscellular.com for comprehensive financial information, including earnings releases, quarterly and annual filings, shareholder information and more.