Verizon CEO says no to Dish spectrum buy, big deals
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Communications, majority owner of the biggest U.S. mobile service, is not interested in buying spectrum from Dish Network and does not plan to make any big acquisitions, its top executive said on Tuesday.
While investors have been speculating that Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen could make a lot of money if he sells Dish's wireless spectrum holdings to big U.S. mobile operators, Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam told Reuters at an investor conference that his company would not be a buyer.
McAdam also told the audience at the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference that his company was not planning any acquisitions as big as its recent purchases of Terremark and Hughes Telematics.
Verizon bought enterprise service provider Terremark last year for $1.4 billion and completed its purchase of Hughes for $612 million in July.
It may do more deals in the software space but these would be smaller transactions, McAdam told the conference.
"It's in the tens of millions (of dollars) kind of range versus the hundreds of millions kind of range. Right now, I don't see the value add of a huge acquisition," McAdam said.
He said Verizon Wireless, the company's venture with Vodafone Group Plc, is seeing strong phone sales so far in the holiday shopping season. The venture's strong customer growth in the third quarter, when it won market share from rivals, is continuing in the fourth quarter, he said.
The executive pointed to retailer estimates of sales volume increases of up to 40 percent on the days after Thanksgiving and said, "We saw that kind of improvement."
He declined to say how many of those phone sales were upgrades by existing customers or sales to new customers.
Given the comments, Verizon may be in a position to beat UBS analyst John Hodulik's expectations for 1.8 million net subscriber additions in the fourth quarter, the analyst said in a research note.
McAdam said he would provide an estimate in January for the financial impact of damage to Verizon's network from Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the U.S. Northeast on October 29.
Verizon expects to replace damaged copper phone lines with fiber in places such as lower Manhattan, which would allow it to provide more advanced services such as high-speed Internet and television to customers there.
"Our plan is to take advantage of this disruption," McAdam said.
The executive said the company is currently running trials of its planned Internet video service from a partnership with Coinstar Inc unit Redbox and plans to launch the service commercially around the end of the first quarter.
This marks a delay for the service, which Verizon previously expected to launch in the second half of 2012.
McAdam also told investors that the company would consider starting a share buyback program in 12 to 18 months, depending on how much cash it spends to upgrade its fiber network or on acquisitions.
Verizon shares were down 10 cents at $44.00 in late-morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting By Sinead Carew, editing by Nick Zieminski and John Wallace)