TELUS reports strong results for fourth quarter 2017
Consolidated revenue and EBITDA growth of 4.9 per cent and 4.7 per cent respectively
Strong customer growth, including 156,000 postpaid wireless, Internet and TV customer additions, up 23 per cent over last year
Postpaid wireless net additions of 121,000, up 39 per cent over last year; strongest quarterly result in five years
Leading broadband networks delivering strong wireline subscriber growth of 21,000, up 17 per cent over last year, with lowest residential network access line losses in 13 years
Industry-leading wireless postpaid churn of 0.99 per cent; fourth consecutive year churn below 1.00 per cent
Targeting 2018 consolidated revenue and EBITDA growth of up to 6 and 7 per cent; Free cash flow outlook of up to $1.4 billion in 2018
Vancouver, B.C. – TELUS Corporation’s consolidated operating revenue increased by 4.9 per cent to $3.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017, over the same quarter a year ago, reflecting growth in wireless network revenue and wireline data services. Earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased by 46 per cent to $1.1 billion due to higher revenue growth and lower restructuring and other costs as compared to the same quarter last year, partially offset by higher acquisition and retention costs. Adjusted EBITDA was up 4.7 per cent when excluding certain costs, including restructuring and other costs, which was impacted by the transformative compensation expense of $305 million in the same period a year ago.
“TELUS delivered strong fourth quarter operational and financial results, reflecting robust customer growth alongside healthy revenue and EBITDA expansion across both our wireless and wireline businesses”, said Darren Entwistle, President and CEO. “Our continued strong performance is buttressed by the dedication of our incredible team to execute on our strategy in a highly competitive environment. The TELUS team’s unparalleled commitment to providing consistently exceptional customer experiences contributed to TELUS achieving our fourth consecutive year of wireless churn below one per cent, supported by our highly differentiated service offerings and the ongoing investments we are making in our globally leading broadband networks.”
Mr. Entwistle added, “The fourth quarter capped a strong year where we attained robust customer growth while achieving our annual revenue and EBITDA targets for the seventh consecutive year in a row. This proven, year-in-year-out execution by our team, gives us confidence in our 2018 targets announced today, including revenue growth up to 6 per cent and EBITDA growth up to 7 per cent. In addition, outlook for free cash flow is expected to be up to $1.4 billion.”
Mr. Entwistle further commented, “Through the success of our broadband investments, we have demonstrated our ability to consistently drive long-term revenue and EBITDA growth, while simultaneously delivering on our shareholder-friendly initiatives. TELUS returned over $1.1 billion to shareholders in 2017. This builds on the more than $15 billion TELUS has returned to shareholders since 2004, representing over $25 per share. Consistent with the 7 per cent dividend growth achieved in 2017, following six consecutive years of circa 10 per cent annual dividend growth, we continue to target an additional 7 to 10 percent increase in 2018.”
Doug French, TELUS Executive Vice-President and CFO said, “Our strong fourth quarter and 2017 results showcased the benefits of our strategic investments in our advanced broadband networks, strong asset mix geared towards the growth in data services, and proactive focus on operational effectiveness and margin accretion initiatives. As we head into 2018, we are well positioned to continue delivering strong financial and operating results as we build on our strong operating momentum. We remain focused on maintaining a strong balance sheet position as we continue to strategically invest in our broadband networks to support future profitable growth and increased free cash flow generation to support our dividend growth program. As previously announced, our capital investment program peaked in 2017, and is targeted to be $2.85 billion in 2018. Our free cash flow growth, and the objective to be free cash flow positive after dividends this year, will be driven by strong operational execution and focused capital spending.”
In wireless, our network revenue increased by 5.4 per cent to $1.8 billion, reflecting postpaid subscriber growth, including smartphone adoption and subscribers we acquired from Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), higher ARPU as customers move to higher-rate plans, including Premium Plus, and increased data consumption. In wireline, our data services and equipment revenue increased by 6.0 per cent to $1.1 billion, reflecting increased Internet and enhanced data service revenues from continued high-speed Internet subscriber growth and higher revenue per customer, growth in business process outsourcing revenues inclusive of recent acquisitions and foreign exchange impacts on foreign operations, higher TELUS Health revenues driven by organic growth through additional professional services and support revenue, and through acquisitions, and an increase in TELUS TV revenues from subscriber growth.
In the quarter, we attracted 156,000 new postpaid wireless, high-speed Internet and TELUS TV customers, up 29,000 over the same quarter a year ago. The higher net additions included 121,000 wireless postpaid net additions, 21,000 high-speed Internet subscribers, and 14,000 TELUS TV customers. Our total wireless subscriber base of 8.9 million is up 3.8 per cent from a year ago, reflecting a 5.7 per cent increase in our postpaid subscriber base to 8.0 million. Our high-speed Internet connections have increased 5.3 per cent to more than 1.7 million over the last twelve months, while our TELUS TV subscriber base of 1.1 million is higher by 3.7 per cent.
For the quarter, net income of $282 million increased by $195 million over the same period a year ago while basic earnings per share (EPS) of $0.47 increased by $0.33 cents due to significantly lower restructuring and other costs. Adjusted net income of $328 million and adjusted EPS of $0.55 both increased by 3.8 per cent as EBITDA growth was partially offset by higher depreciation and amortization reflecting the significant investments we have made in the past few years, including our broadband networks, as well as those arising from business acquisitions.
Free cash flow of $274 million in the fourth quarter increased by $465 million over the same quarter a year ago mainly due to increased EBITDA, as the fourth quarter of 2016 included the impact of the $305 million transformative compensation expense, as well as lower capital expenditures and cash taxes paid.
Consolidated financial highlights
C$ and in millions — except per share amounts
Three months ended December 31
Per cent change
Operating expenses before depreciation and amortization
Adjusted net income3
Net income attributable to common shares
Basic earnings per share (EPS)3
Adjusted basic EPS3
Free cash flow4
Total subscriber connections5
Fourth Quarter 2017 Operating Highlights
Wireless network revenues increased by $91 million or 5.4 per cent year-over-year to $1.8 billion. This growth was driven by growth in the subscriber base, including subscribers we acquired from MTS, a larger proportion of higher-rate two-year plans in the revenue mix, increased adoption of larger data buckets or topping up of data buckets, a more favourable postpaid subscriber mix and a higher smartphone mix.
Blended ARPU was higher by 1.6 per cent to $67.27. This represents our twenty-ninth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth and was driven by network revenue growth as described above.
Monthly postpaid subscriber churn increased slightly by 1 basis point year-over-year to 0.99 per cent, marking the fourth consecutive year postpaid churn has been below 1 per cent. Blended monthly churn declined by 2 basis points to 1.23 per cent reflecting an increase in the mix of postpaid versus prepaid subscribers.
Wireless net additions of 98,000 increased by 20,000 over the same period a year ago. Postpaid net additions of 121,000 increased by 34,000 due to higher gross additions, reflecting the success of promotions and our marketing efforts focused on higher-value postpaid and smartphone loading, including our successful response to aggressive holiday offers. Prepaid net losses totaled 23,000 due to increased competition.
EBITDA increased by $110 million while Adjusted EBITDA of $715 million increased by $36 million or 5.0 per cent over last year, reflecting higher network revenue partly offset by increased equipment sales expenses, increased network operating expenses, higher administrative costs and increased external labour.
Wireless capital expenditures decreased by 6.4 per cent over the same period a year ago as we incurred costs in the fourth quarter of 2016 to update our radio access network in Ontario and Quebec, which was completed in the second quarter of 2017.
External wireline revenues increased by $31 million or 2.1 per cent to $1.5 billion. This growth was generated primarily by higher data services revenue and partly offset by continued declines in legacy voice services.
Data services and equipment revenues increased by $63 million or 6.0 per cent, due to increased Internet and enhanced data revenues from continued high-speed Internet subscriber growth and higher revenue per customer, growth in business process outsourcing services inclusive of recent acquisitions and foreign exchange impacts on foreign operations, increased TELUS Health revenues driven by organic growth through additional professional services and support revenue, and through acquisitions, and higher TELUS TV revenues from continued subscriber growth.
High-speed Internet net additions of 21,000 decreased by 3,000 over the same quarter a year ago due to lower gross additions, despite continued traction on our fibre deployment, partially offset by lower customer churn.
Total TELUS TV net additions of 14,000 were lower by 2,000 over the same quarter a year ago, as a result of lower gross additions and satellite-TV subscriber losses due to slower subscriber growth for paid TV services reflecting heightened competitive intensity, including from over-the-top services, and a high rate of market penetration for TV services. These factors were partly offset by the ongoing expansion of our addressable high-speed Internet and Optik TV footprint, connecting more homes and businesses directly to fibre and bundling of these services together.
Residential network access lines (NALs) declined by 14,000 in the quarter, an improvement of 8,000 over the same quarter a year ago, reflecting our customers first initiatives and retention efforts. This is the best result in thirteen years. Residential NAL losses continue to reflect the trend of substitution to wireless and Internet-based services, as well as increased competition.
Wireline EBITDA increased by $244 million while Adjusted EBITDA increased by $18 million or 4.3 per cent over last year. This reflects ongoing growth in data service margins, including Internet, TELUS Health, and TELUS TV, as well as cost savings from operating efficiency programs.
Wireline capital expenditures decreased by 7.2 per cent over the same period a year ago as hardware purchases for TELUS TV in the fourth quarter of 2016 were pulled forward from 2017.
TELUS sets 2018 consolidated financial targets
TELUS' consolidated financial targets for 2018 reflect continued growth in data services across wireless and wireline, supported by our strategic investments in advanced broadband technologies and leading networks, a team member culture of delivering customer service excellence, and ongoing focus on operational effectiveness. TELUS' 2018 financial targets are supportive of the Company's multi-year dividend growth program first announced in May 2011, under which TELUS has since delivered 14 dividend increases.
In 2018, TELUS plans to continue generating positive subscriber growth in its key growth segments, including wireless, high-speed Internet and TELUS TV. Increasing customer demand for reliable access and fast data services are expected to support continued customer growth. TELUS International and TELUS Health are also expected to contribute to TELUS' growth profile through organic growth and from recent acquisitions.
$13.835 to $14.100 billion
4 to 6%
$5.105 to $5.230 billion
4 to 7%
Basic earnings per share
$2.53 to $2.68
3 to 9%
Approximately $2.85 billion
For 2018, TELUS is targeting consolidated annual revenue growth of between 4 and 6 per cent, driven by higher contribution from wireless network revenue, which reflects continued subscriber and ARPU growth, combined with growing wireline data services revenue inclusive of acquisitions.
Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA is targeted to be higher by 4 to 7 per cent driven by higher wireless network revenue growth, margin improvements from wireless and wireline data services and savings from ongoing cost efficiency and effectiveness initiatives. Wireless acquisition and retention expenses are expected to remain elevated due to ongoing demand for more expensive smartphones and increased competition.
Basic earnings per share (EPS) is targeted to increase by 3 to 9 per cent driven primarily by EBITDA growth, partially offset by higher depreciation and amortization reflecting the significant investments we have made in the past few years, including in our broadband networks, and from recent acquisitions, as well as higher interest costs, including from pensions.
Consolidated capital expenditures for 2018, excluding the purchase of spectrum licences, are targeted to be approximately $2.85 billion. In 2018, we expect to continue connecting more homes and businesses directly to our fibre-optic network, to support ongoing high-speed Internet and Optik TV subscriber growth and faster Internet broadband speeds. The investments in fibre will also continue supporting our small-cell technology strategy to improve coverage and prepare for a more efficient and timely evolution to 5G. We intend to continue investing in our 4G LTE expansion and upgrades, as well as invest in network and system resiliency and reliability to support our ongoing customers first initiatives and ready the network and systems for future retirement of legacy assets.
TELUS' cash income tax payments for the full year are estimated to be approximately $170 to $230 million, consistent with 2017 of $191 million.
The preceding disclosure respecting TELUS' 2018 financial targets is forward-looking information and is fully qualified by the 'Caution regarding forward-looking statements' at the beginning of the accompanying Management's review of operations for the fourth quarter of 2017 and in the full year 2017 Management's discussion and analysis filed on the date hereof on SEDAR, especially Section 10 entitled 'Risks and Risk Management' thereof which is hereby incorporated by reference, and is based on management's expectations and assumptions as set out in Section 1.7 entitled 'Financial and operating targets for 2018' in the accompanying Management's review of operations for the fourth quarter of 2017.
The TELUS Board of Directors has declared a quarterly dividend of $0.5050 Canadian per share on the issued and outstanding Common Shares of the Company payable on April 2, 2018 to holders of record at the close of business on March 9, 2018.
TELUS makes significant contributions and investments in the communities where team members live, work and serve and to the Canadian economy on behalf of customers, shareholders and team members. These include:
Paying, collecting and remitting a total of approximately $1.9 billion in taxes in 2017 to federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada consisting of corporate income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, employer portion of payroll taxes and various regulatory fees. Since 2000, we have remitted approximately $23 billion in these taxes.
Disbursing spectrum renewal fees of over $50 million to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada in 2017. Since 2000, our total tax and spectrum remittances to federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada have totaled approximately $27 billion.
Investing approximately $3.1 billion in capital expenditures primarily in communities across Canada in 2017 and $34 billion since 2000.
Spending $8.0 billion in total operating expenses in 2017, including goods and service purchased of $5.7 billion. Since 2000, we have spent $107 billion and $71 billion respectively in these areas.
Generating a total team member payroll of $2.7 billion in 2017, including payroll taxes of $135 million. Since 2000, total team member payroll totals $42 billion.
Returning more than $1.1 billion in dividends in 2017 to individual shareholders, mutual fund owners, pensioners and institutional investors. Since 2004, we have returned over $15 billion to shareholders through our dividend and share purchase programs, including $9.9 billion in dividends and $5.2 billion in share purchases, representing over $25 per share.
Access to Quarterly results information
Interested investors, the media and others may review this quarterly earnings news release, management's review of operations, quarterly results slides, audio and transcript of the investor webcast call, supplementary financial information at telus.com/investors.
TELUS' fourth quarter 2017 conference call is scheduled for Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 12:00pm ET (9:00am PT) and will feature a presentation followed by a question and answer period with investment analysts. Interested parties can access the webcast at telus.com/investors. An audio recording will be available on February 8 until March 15, 2018 at 1-855-201-2300. Please use reference number 1227383# and access code 77377#. An archive of the webcast will also be available at telus.com/investors and a transcript will be posted on the website within a few business days.
Notations used above: n/m - not meaningful