An estimated 1.4 million AT&T subscribers will shift to Verizon with the advent of a Verizon iPhone in early 2011, according to a report released today by Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse’s report relies on a supposed February 15 launch of the Verizon iPhone (based on a Bloomberg report) and other mounting evidence that Verizon will soon get its hands on Apple’s goods.
A survey conducted by Credit Suisse indicated that 23 percent of AT&T iPhone users would switch to Verizon given the opportunity — even though most of them are under contract and only 3 percent of the survey respondents said they would break their current contract. About 18 percent of iPhone users said they would switch to Verizon after their contracts expired.
Credit Suisse estimates that AT&T’s net new subscriptions will be about flat for 2011 as users flock to Verizon and other carriers when AT&T’s iPhone exclusivity expires, versus an expect 1.5 to 2 million new subscriptions by a consensus of analyst estimates. The rate at which subscribers leave AT&T will also go up slightly in 2011, to about 1.3 percent compared to 1.1 percent in 2010, according to the Credit Suisse report.
According to Credit Suisse, Verizon’s subscriptions will increase sharply next year, doubling to about 4 million new subscribers from 2 million in 2010; that’s significantly higher than the 1.5 million new subscribers projected by a number of analysts to date. The cost per new user will go up as a result of the iPhone’s presence, putting some pressure on earnings in 2011 — but that will snap back in 2012, according to the report. Credit Suisse’s earnings-per-share estimates for Verizon are about 12 percent lower than consensus estimates.
But the financial services company upgraded its coverage of AT&T’s stock to “outperform” from “neutral,” saying it was undervalued compared to Verizon and more prone to upward earnings estimate revisions, even if the iPhone is headed Verizon’s way next year. AT&T should bring about a 20 percent return on its shares in 2011, compared to only 3.5 percent from the benchmark Standard and Poor’s 500 index — a collection of some of the largest or most influential stocks on the market. Credit Suisse’s estimates for AT&T’s earnings-per-share are also about 5 percent above the rest of the consensus estimates.
The iPhone has been a boon for AT&T, racking up about 24 million activations through the second quarter of 2010, according to the report. 30 percent of all new subscriptions in 2009 and 2010 for AT&T were from the iPhone. Verizon, on the other hand, has had to compete with a flurry of Android devices like the Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Incredible.