Satellite TV provider DirecTV on Thursday reported fourth-quarter results that topped Wall Street estimates with better-than-expected U.S. growth and announced a $3.5 billion share buyback, sending its stock up nearly 3 percent.
The company said it added 93,000 U.S. subscribers for the quarter that ended in December as it focused on "higher quality subscribers" in a mature market. That was nearly 10 percent less than a year earlier, but above analysts' forecasts.
The average monthly revenue per U.S. user rose 6.3 percent to $111.74.
Net income attributable to DirecTV fell to $810 million, or $1.53 per share, from $942 million a year earlier, due in part to a one-time gain in 2013 from the sale of its stake in the Game Show Network.
Revenue rose 7 percent to $8.59 billion. Analysts on average had expected earnings of $1.28 per share on revenue of $8.47 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company added 231,000 customers in Latin America, its largest growth area. The additions were 65 percent lower than the same quarter a year earlier.
Subscriber numbers in the region, where the company is tapping into a growing middle class, were hurt by a fall in imports of set-top boxes in Venezuela and weak economic conditions in Argentina, Colombia and Chile, the company said.
Northland Securities analyst Tom Eagan said DirecTV beat his forecast for 84,000 new customers in the United States but fell short of his 400,000 estimate for Latin America. Still, he called the overall results "very solid."
"On the whole, these results confirm our thesis for DTV: consistent and growing US operations accompanied by a more volatile Latam business," Eagan said in a research note.
DirecTV Chief Executive Officer Mike White said the company was assessing the impact of Comcast Corp's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc, which was announced on February 13.
"If the deal is approved as proposed, it clearly represents an unprecedented media concentration in one company," White said on a conference call with analysts.
DirecTV has not decided what stance it will take with U.S. regulators who will review the deal, White said.
Areas deserving scrutiny include "the effective broadband monopoly they might have in as much as two-thirds of the country," White said, as well as "the interaction between horizontal power and the vertical power that they would have with content costs."
DirecTV said it had 20.25 million subscribers in the United States at the end of 2013, up about 0.8 percent from 2012. In Latin America, its customer base grew 12 percent to 11.57 million.
Shares of DirecTV rose 2.8 percent to $74.97 in afternoon trading on Nasdaq.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Maju Samuel and Amanda Kwan)