Analyzing the Impact of AT&T’s $14 Billion Snub

Analyzing the Impact of AT&T’s $14 Billion Snub

Posted On December 29, 2023 11:33 am

In December, Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson (ERIC) won a $14 billion contract to revamp AT&T Inc.’s (T) wireless network, outpacing long-time competitor Nokia Oyj (NOK).

Within the agreement, Ericsson is expected to construct an open network capable of obtaining supply from multiple vendors, signifying a pivotal industrial transition. The conditions of the contract permit T to freely select its antenna and infrastructure suppliers going forward, mitigating the inflexibility of a single-vendor lock-in. The allocated budget will span over five years, with the primary aim of enhancing T’s 5G technology infrastructure.

Ericsson currently supplies two-thirds of T’s network, while NOK caters to the remaining portion. T’s choice dealt a significant blow to NOK, whose shares took a harrowing 10% dip on the Helsinki stock exchange following the announcement.

NOK maintains a comprehensive partnership with T, supplying products and services across wireless, wireline, and other network technologies. This mirrors NOK’s similar collaborations with other major network operators in North America.

Analysts caution that setbacks faced by NOK could compel the firm to divest sections of its business. These segments might operate more efficiently under local entities that possess superior proficiency in maneuvering through the vast U.S. market. This prediction arises from worries that interpersonal issues undermined NOK’s previous bid.

Danske Bank analyst Sami Sarkamies said, “We don’t think the decision came down to nitty-gritty product features such as fan-based cooling, rather it has been more about top-level relationships, credibility, and corporate image in the eyes of the customer.”

The transition to open-source technology is set to expose NOK to intensified competition from its competitors in the lucrative U.S. marketplace, an area currently recognized as the globe’s most valued telecom market. The largest expenditure in this territory is by T.

The contract with T now grants Ericsson a critical early-adopter lead over its adversaries. The Swedish corporation pioneers as the inaugural globally recognized vendor to integrate open RAN with a major operator into an existing network.

Citi analyst Andrew Gardiner said, “Nokia had been the primary share gainer within the RAN market for the past two years, following the decline after it lost significant share at Verizon in 2019. The loss of share at a second North American customer, particularly given Nokia’s legacy in that market, is a considerable blow.”

In light of T’s plans to undertake an O-RAN deployment, co-working with other vendors for the coming five years, NOK anticipates a decline in revenue generated from T in the Mobile Networks section for the next two to three years. As of 2023, T accounted for approximately 5% to 8% of the net sales within Mobile Networks.

In response to the anticipated change in revenue, NOK aims to reduce its gross cost basis by between €800 million and €1.20 billion by the end of 2026 compared to 2023, assuming consistent variable pay during both periods. This ambitious target equates to a 10% to 15% reduction in personnel expenses.

NOK has put forth an aggressive strategy to implement this program swiftly, with plans in place to save at least €400 million within 2024 and a further €300 million in 2025. The effects of this cost-cutting endeavor could result in a leaner organization consisting of around 72,000 to 77,000 employees, compared to the current strength of 86,000 employees.

The action to reduce the cost base is expected to mitigate the impact of T’s decision partially. NOK expects Mobile Networks to remain profitable over the coming years, but this decision would delay the timeline of achieving a double-digit operating margin by up to two years.

Consequently, by 2026…

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