Liberty Puerto Rico reported $412.1 million in revenue for fiscal year 2019, an increase of 23% year-over-year attributed to a “focus on innovation and customer experience, as it strives to transform into a quad-play services provider.”
The provider, whose results positioned it as one of its parent company Liberty Latin America’s biggest regional performers in 2019, added 13,000 revenue generating units, or clients, during the fourth quarter of 2019 and 47,000 in fiscal year 2019. Liberty Puerto Rico reported $105.4 million in revenue for the fourth quarter in 2019.
“There’s no doubt that 2019 was a great year. The growth had to do with upgraded networks, new fiber build, and new homes reached,” said Naji Khoury, president of Liberty Puerto Rico, in an interview with this media outlet.
The results for the year remained flat over 2018, but Khoury attributed that to the recovery that Liberty had to work on after Hurricane María ripped through the island in September 2017, toppling critical communications infrastructure for all providers.
Liberty Puerto Rico made a substantial investment in rebuilding its islandwide network post-hurricanes and recovered some $40 million to $49 million in insurance reimbursements during the last quarter of 2018, said Liberty Latin America CFO Chris Noyes, during a conference call to discuss the quarterly and year-end results.
Khoury said Liberty added more than 20,000 new homes passed during 2019, and the company’s new fiber to the home connection has become the standard for new construction, with speed capabilities of up to 1Gbps.
Liberty Puerto Rico also upgraded speeds for about 22,000 homes passed, which will further enhance the company’s services. This year, it expects to reach another 25,000 new homes and the company will return to areas where its infrastructure was wiped out after the storms.
“We’re slowly going back to the areas affected by the hurricane. For example, Lares and Barranquitas. We’re going back, but not 100% full-force,” he said.
AT&T acquisition, new products in the works
Liberty Puerto Rico’s biggest highlight for fiscal year 2019 was Liberty Latin America’s announcement last October that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire AT&T’s assets in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to Khoury, this transaction is currently in the regulatory stage, which means that all pertinent regulatory entities at state and federal levels are evaluating the deal. In the meantime, both companies continue to operate separately, with a closing expected to take place during the second quarter.
“We have a team on the ground working not only at Liberty but also in AT&T, planning what we call ‘Day 1,’ when we officially become AT&T’s new owner,” Khoury said. “The only thing they’re doing night and day is making sure that it is completely transparent to all customers.”
Again, Khoury said once it takes over AT&T, rates will not change, customers will not lose any of their current capabilities, and they will have roaming when traveling outside Puerto Rico and the USVI.
After the dust settles, it is expected that Liberty will begin offering a “quad-play” bundle that could represent savings for customers who sign up for video, internet, fixed telephony and wireless services, he said.
“This investment is further testimony of our belief in Puerto Rico,” added Khoury. “We intend to keep – and even improve – what exists today: superiority of the network, excellent customer service, and seamless service when you travel. Not only will this transaction bring added benefits for consumers and businesses, it will also transform and add resiliency to the communication infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the USVI.”
As far as how the market will behave once the AT&T acquisition wraps up and T-Mobile’s proposed takeover of Sprint closes, Khoury said it will continue to be competitive.
“Puerto Rico is a small market, when you look at the size of other markets around us. So, I think having three competitors on the island is more than enough,” he said. “I believe there will be three solid competitors, that should be great for the future, and great for new services. It’s no secret everybody’s talking about 5G.”
Once Liberty closes on its acquisition, it will likely start integrating both brands within six months with the goal of completing the process within a 12-month period, Khoury said during the conference call.
Meanwhile, in a few weeks, Liberty Puerto Rico will launch its new streaming video Android based Hub TV box. Hub TV is a product that serves as a central video content aggregator with access to apps, over-the-top content and traditional IP video, all with a voice-operated recommendation engine and Google Assistant.