Verizon Communications Inc.’s fourth-quarter results aren’t a big mystery, but the company’s path forward comes with plenty of question marks. Chief Executive Hans Vestberg already disclosed that Verizon
generated “positive” subscriber additions for its consumer wireless business during the holiday quarter — not a massive surprise given that positive momentum was the company’s goal, but nonetheless of some relief to investors in the wake of three straight quarters of subscriber losses.
Verizon will detail just how many subscribers it gained when it reports fourth-quarter results Tuesday morning, but even more important will be the company’s outlook for the year ahead — and potentially beyond. The company’s current predicament isn’t necessarily of its own making, suggests Deutsche Bank analyst Bryan Kraft. But that doesn’t mean that there are any easy answers for Verizon. As the largest player in the U.S. postpaid wireless market, Verizon is vulnerable to subscriber defections. Plus, its established peers have been improving their own offerings, while the cable companies represent upstart competition. “Verizon management hasn’t been any less effective in managing the business, in our view; they’ve continued to operate at a high level, but the competition has improved its operating performance, eroding what had been a sizable operating advantage for Verizon in what was essentially a three-player market,” Kraft wrote in a note to clients. Cable players Comcast Corp.
and Ch …