Fitch Releases 3Q'12 U.S. Telecommunications and Cable Stats Quarterly Report

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According to a new report issued by Fitch Ratings the U.S. Telecom and Cable sector's liquidity and margins have remained stable throughout 2012 in the face of competitive pressures with minimal organic growth opportunities.

Third-quarter liquidity remained strong, with 94% of committed facilities available for borrowing and total liquidity exceeding aggregate 2012, 2013, and 2014 maturities. Refinancing activities have extended the maturity profile within the sector, as scheduled maturities during 2013 and 2014 declined by over $4 billion since second-quarter 2012.

LTM free cash flow (FCF) improved in the third quarter to $36 billion, and issuers maintained balance sheet cash and short-term investment balances of approximately $51 billion, over $10 billion more than last quarter mainly through debt issuance. Comcast generated almost $7 billion more of cash in excess of second-quarter balances due to proceeds received from SpectrumCo.'s sale of AWS spectrum to Verizon Wireless and cash proceeds received from the redemption of NBCUniversal's economic stake in A&E Television Networks.

Margins have remained stable throughout 2012 in the face of persistent competitive pressures and with minimal organic growth opportunities. Aggregate LTM EBITDA margins declined 117 basis points (bps) year over year to 32%. DISH Network's LTM EBITDA margins witnessed the largest declines in the portfolio with a 100 bps decline quarter over quarter and a 420 bps decline year over year, primarily resulting from higher subscriber-related expenses. Credit profiles are steady, as leverage is slightly lower from the previous year at 2.35x from 2.42x.

Capital intensity typically ranges between 13.5%-14% for the telecommunications industry. Fitch expects capital intensity to retreat in 2013 to the lower end of this range, which includes a continuation of higher wireless spending due to the deployment of 4G LTE technology.

Aside from the industry, AT&T announced it would boost capital spending until 2015 to significantly expand both wireless and wireline broadband networks.

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