Should You Buy and Hold Telefonica?

Being able to retire rich, or at least comfortable, is the goal of almost any investor. However, it's much easier said than done. In a recent Wells Fargo survey, respondents between the ages of 50-59 said that they had, on average, about $29,000 saved up. With pensions all but gone, and social security targeted for cuts in the future, it's hard to count on anyone but yourself. But $29,000 isn't going to cut it for most people, so you've got to get involved in the stock market in order to grow that nest egg. Getting in the game is the easy part; choosing the right stocks is the hard part.

Making prudent decisions
Generally speaking, I look for four traits in a retirement stock:

  1. Valuation: Investors of all ages want to make sure they're not overpaying for a stock, but this matters even more in retirement. Retirees don't have the long time horizon that younger investors have, so it's essential to make sure you don't overpay in the short term.
  2. Dividends: Most retirees need a combination of both growth and income, as they'll be depending more and more on their portfolio to help with everyday expenses. Companies that pay dividends not only offer immediate income, but they've also proven to outperform non-paying dividend companies over long periods of time.
  3. Growth: Investors love dividends, but everyone wants to see their stocks rise over time. Growth can be as big a part of your portfolio as a steady dividend. It's important to note that you don't need a high-flying stock that's going to shoot to the moon; a company that can grow and outperform the market is hard enough to find, so steady growth is highly covetable.
  4. Low Volatility: Retirees want to invest in great growth stocks just as much as anyone else, but they also want to be able to rest well knowing that their portfolio won't be taking them on a rollercoaster ride. At the end of the day, most retirees would rather own a sturdy company that lets them sleep at night than a company that whips up and down with the gyrations of the market.

So how does Telefonica stack up?
In order to check out the valuation of Telefonica (NYSE: TEF  ) , we don't want to look at only its P/E ratio of 7.42. That may seem cheap, but really we don't know without looking at the ratio in historical context. Over the last five years, Telefonica's average P/E ratio has been 11.6, which is greater than the current ratio. This suggests that investors could be seeing an opportunity to buy Telefonica on the cheap right now.

Telefonica's dividend is 7.05%. This is tremendous; not only does Telefonica pay a dividend, but it pays way more than the average company in the S&P 500.

Next, we want to ensure that Telefonica's stock has the ability to rise over the next five, 10, or 20 years. A company that's growing its net income has the best possible chance to see its share price rise over time. Of course, we can't predict the future, but we can look back to get an idea of how the company has performed in the past in order to try to ensure future earnings growth. Over the past five years, Telefonica has grown its net income by 25.7%. Fortunately, Telefonica has been able to grow its earnings over the past five years, and that's pretty significant considering all of the market turmoil in the last few years. Of course, this doesn't mean that growth will continue, but it's a great sign that the company can prosper in the face of difficulty.

One of the best measures of volatility is called beta. Beta measures the impact that the movement of the stock market will have on a particular stock. For instance, a beta of 1.0 signifies that Telefonica will move in tandem with the market; a beta of 2.0 means that the stock will move up twice as much as the general market, and vice versa. In this particular case, Telefonica has a beta of 0.781, which is pretty low. Generally speaking, I like to see a beta below 1.2 for retirees. In this case, Telefonica fits the bill.

Let's look at the competition
We've taken a look at Telefonica, and maybe you think it's passed all the tests, or maybe you just don't feel comfortable with the results. Either way, it's beneficial to see how a company stacks up in its industry, because it's just as important to understand a company's competitors as it to understand that particular company. Here are Telefonica's stats when compared to three of its closest competitors:

Company

Current P/E

Dividend Yield

5-Year Net Income Growth

1-Year Beta

Telefonica 7.4 7.1% 25.7% 0.8
Vodafone Group (NYSE: VOD  ) 8.5 4.6% 10.2% 0.7
France Telecom (NYSE: FTE  ) 14.7 8.6% 4.16% 0.5
Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ  ) 40.2 5.4% (19.2%) 0.5

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Each company has traits to like and traits left to be desired. Either way, it's beneficial to look at the industry picture and not just Telefonica in isolation.

Of course, I can't decide for you whether or not this is the best stock for retirement, but it has passed all four tests, which is pretty darn impressive. It doesn't necessarily mean this stock is a slam dunk, but it has shown its ability to reward shareholders, and that means it could have a place in your portfolio.

Interested in adding any of the companies above to your watchlist? Click below to get the latest commentary and analysis.

Jordan DiPietro owns shares of Telefonica. Vodafone Group is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. France Telecom is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. The Fool owns shares of Telefonica and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2011, at 7:31 PM, JimonSummerhill wrote:

    Jordan,

    I can't find any indication that the yield on the TEF ADR is even above 6%, let alone 7%+. What am I missing? I've been waiting for the price to fall back closer to 20 to buy, given the risk in the Spanish economy,

    Regards,

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2011, at 10:22 PM, LLynneB wrote:

    On the advice of my stock broker I purchased shares of TEF. Hopefully you're both right.

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