DirecTV, the country's largest provider of satellite TV services, beat Wall Street estimates for the fourth quarter, propelled by business operations as well as asset sales and one-time tax benefits.
The company on Thursday posted earnings of $942 million, or $1.55 per share, for the October to December period. That's up 31 percent from $718 million, or $1.02 in the same period last year, with revenue growing faster than costs.
Earnings per share rose 52 percent from a year ago, partly because the company has been buying back its own stock.
Analysts polled by FactSet on average expected earnings of $1.13 cents per share. Analyst Jason Bazinet at Citigroup said one-time tax effects and the sale of a stake in the Game Show Network were part of the reason DirecTV beat the Wall Street forecast by such a wide margin. Excluding those items, he put DirecTV's earnings at $1.31, still well above the average analyst estimate.
Revenue was $8.05 billion, up 8 percent from a year ago. The company's growth rate is slowing down, as most U.S. households interested in switching from cable to satellite have already done so.
Analysts estimated slightly lower revenue of $8.03 billion.
Shares rose 86 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $52.53 in morning trading as the broader market retreated. The shares are close to the all-time high of $55.17, reached in September.
The El Segundo, Calif., company added 103,000 U.S. subscribers in the quarter, below the 125,000 it added in a year ago. It ended the year with more than 20 million subscribers for the first time, maintaining its position as the second-largest provider of pay-TV signals to U.S. households, after Comcast Corp.
DirecTV's Sky Brasil and PanAmericana added 658,000 subscribers, up from 590,000 a year ago. DirecTV now has 10.3 million subscribers in Latin America. Sky Mexico, of which it owns 41 percent, has another 5.2 million.
Latin American subscribers pay less than those in the U.S. DirecTV gets 78 percent of its revenue from U.S. operations.
For the full year, DirecTV earned $2.95 billion, or $4.58 per share, on revenue of $29.7 billion. That was up from net income of $2.6 billion, or $3.47 per share, on revenue of $27.2 billion. It lost U.S. subscribers for the first time in the second quarter, making for a total net gain of 199,000 subscribers during the year — a third of what it gained in 2011 and 2010.