Verizon beats subscriber estimates as it gears up for 5G battle

Verizon Communications Inc. exceeded Wall Street estimates for profit and subscriber growth in the second quarter, easing investor concerns as the company begins the costly process of launching 5G wireless services.

Total wireless subscribers rose by 451,000, which includes 245,000 new phone customers. The remaining additions were hotspots, smartwatches and other connected devices. Earnings, excluding special items, were $1.23 a share, according to a statement. Analysts expected 349,000 new subscribers and earnings of $1.20.

Verizon faces a potentially different wireless market if T-Mobile US Inc. is able to complete its $26.5 billion takeover of Sprint Corp. The combination would make for a three-way race with Verizon, AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile to build and capitalize on new 5G service, with Dish Network Corp. entering the field as part of the deal.

If the deal goes through, T-Mobile and Dish will have their hands full with network integration and construction, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Matt Ellis said in an interview Thursday. “That will take time while they focus on those things,” he said. “Meanwhile, we will continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

Verizon took the early lead in 5G network technology, and now offers the advanced mobile service in parts of nine cities. Being first will start to pay off in revenue growth in 2021, Ellis said.

Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg, who took the helm a year ago after working most of his career at network-equipment maker Ericsson AB, has shrunk investments in areas like media and advertising to focus more on network expansion, particularly toward 5G technology.

The shares were up 1.2% to $55.92 in U.S. premarket trading Thursday. The stock is down 1.7% this year, lagging behind gains of around 19% by AT&T and the S&P 500 Index.

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Verizon beats subscriber estimates as it gears up for 5G battle