Welcome!

Wireless Authors: Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Lori MacVittie, Elizabeth White

News Feed Item

Fitch Rates AT&T's Senior Unsecured Notes Offering 'A'; Outlook Negative

Fitch Ratings has assigned an 'A' rating to AT&T Inc.'s (AT&T) offering of EUR1 billion 1.875% senior unsecured notes due 2020. Proceeds are expected to be used for general corporate purposes. The Rating Outlook is Negative.

The current 'A' rating is supported by AT&T's financial flexibility, the company's diversified revenue mix, its significant size and economies of scale as the largest telecommunications operator in the U.S., and Fitch's expectation that AT&T will benefit from continued growth in wireless operating cash flows.

The Negative Outlook reflects Fitch's expectation that AT&T's net leverage is likely to move up to its recently disclosed 1.8x upper boundary for leverage, which represents a notable increase from the 1.47x at the end of the third quarter of 2012 on a last 12-month (LTM) basis. The increased leverage is expected to arise from the combined effects of a moderate increase in wireless and wireline capital spending and the continuation of the company's share repurchase program as announced in early November 2012. Prospective leverage expectations are subject to uncertainty caused by the rate of stock repurchases, actual capital expenditure levels, possible acquisitions (such as longer-term spectrum needs) and asset divestitures (of which there are none in Fitch's expectations).

Fitch believes increased capital spending will strengthen the company's competitive position and is a positive rating factor. Over the next three years, Fitch believes capital spending will increase about 10%-12% over prior baseline levels to $22 billion annually and then revert to mid-teen historical levels. The investment program will expand the population covered by AT&T's 4G LTE network by approximately 20% to 300 million, and enable the company to provide higher broadband speeds over its wireline network in more rural areas. By comparison, the company's original capital spending guidance for 2012 was about $20 billion, although the company reduced guidance to the low end of a $19 billion to $20 billion range in October 2012.

Over the 2013-2015 period, AT&T will spend approximately $8 billion to increase its 4G LTE network coverage from 250 million to 300 million pops (persons of population). This coverage is expected to be completed by the end of 2014. In addition to increasing 4G LTE coverage, AT&T will be increasing capacity through the addition of 10,000 new macro cell sites, 1,000 distributed antenna systems and 40,000 small cells. Up to nearly 30MHz of new spectrum in the wireless communications spectrum (WCS) band will be deployed nationwide, with service to be commercial in 2015. Approximately $6 billion will be spent to upgrade the broadband speeds available to 75% of the customer locations in the company's wireline footprint. In the remaining 25% of the customer locations where it will not be economical to upgrade the wireline network to faster broadband speeds, the company will offer a 4G LTE solution. These customer locations are scattered across 65% of the company's geography.

In early 2012, AT&T started repurchasing common stock under a December 2010 authorization (the company did not repurchase stock while the T-Mobile USA transaction was under consideration in 2011). Through the first nine months of 2012, AT&T's strong free cash flow (FCF) and operating results have enabled the company to maintain its net leverage metric at around 1.5x even while repurchasing nearly $9 billion of common stock. Fitch expects FCF to decline from the $8 billion to $9 billion expected in 2012 to $4 billion annually, on average, over the next three years.

For 2012, Fitch expects AT&T's leverage to be flat with 2011, when gross leverage was 1.56x as adjusted for non-recurring items and the actuarial losses on its benefit plans. After 2012, AT&T's continuation of stock repurchases requiring some borrowing as repurchases will be above FCF levels, will push leverage up over time, with net leverage expected to peak near a 1.8x upper boundary in 2014. Thereafter, leverage is expected to decline over time.

In Fitch's view, liquidity is strong and provided by the company's FCF; additional financial flexibility is provided by availability on the company's revolving credit facilities. At Sept. 30, 2012, total debt outstanding was approximately $63.7 billion, a moderate decline from the $64.8 billion outstanding at the end of 2011. Of the total, $3.4 billion consists of debt due within one year, including debt that can be put to the company. At Sept. 30, 2012, cash amounted to $2.2 billion, and for the LTM ending Sept. 30, 2012, AT&T produced $7 billion in FCF (net cash provided by operating activities less capital expenditures and dividends).

At end of the third quarter of 2012, the company did not have any drawings on its $5 billion revolving credit facility due 2015, nor on its $3 billion, 364-day facility due December 2012. The principal financial covenant for the 2015 facility requires debt to EBITDA, as defined in the agreement, to be no more than 3x. The identical financial covenant is only applicable in the 364-day facility if advances are converted into a term loan.

Relative to the company's expected free cash flows, upcoming debt maturities are manageable. There are no material debt maturities remaining in 2012. In 2013, debt maturities approximate $3.4 billion, including approximately $1.6 billion in debt that may be put to the company. Maturities amount to $3.8 billion in 2014.

What Could Trigger A Rating Action

The Rating Outlook could be revised to Stable if:

--The company begins to manage net leverage down from Fitch's expected peak just under 1.8x in 2014;

--Fitch believes leverage will not reach peak levels as a result of the outcome of the following factors, including, but not limited to, stronger operating results, lower capital spending, and the effect of any acquisitions or divestitures that may occur.

A negative rating action could occur if:

--Net leverage remains above (or is expected to remain above) the 1.8x level for several quarters, including expected leverage resulting from a material transaction;

--Fitch believes management has weakened its commitment to returning to, or operating longer-term with, leverage at a level more reflective of the rating.

Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'. The ratings above were solicited by, or on behalf of, the issuer, and therefore, Fitch has been compensated for the provision of the ratings.

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

--'Corporate Rating Methodology' (Aug. 8, 2012);

--'Rating Telecom Companies - Sector Credit Factors' (Aug. 9, 2012).

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

Corporate Rating Methodology

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=684460

Rating Telecom Companies

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=682323

ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: HTTP://FITCHRATINGS.COM/UNDERSTANDINGCREDITRATINGS. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE.

More Stories By Business Wire

Copyright © 2009 Business Wire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Business Wire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Business Wire. Business Wire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.