July 26, 2012
Shares of France Telecom (NYSE: FTE ) bounced up by 8% today. For us shareholders, it's a welcome reprieve from a year-long slide. Even after this jump, France Telecom has lost 36% of its value over 12 months.
The catalyst for this breather came from the company's first-half report. Total sales, including wireline operations in France as well as mobile networks under the global Orange brand, stayed flat year over year at $26.8 billion. Net income fell 10% to $2.4 billion. Adjusting for currency exchange fluctuations and the performance of France Telecom's cash flow hedges, the company scored 42% higher "total comprehensive income," roughly translated as non-GAAP earnings.
These figures are surprisingly strong, considering the brutal low-cost competition the company faces in France these days. France Telecom underscored its commitment to rolling out fast 4G data networks and also announced a $0.71 dividend per share to be paid in September. At today's prices, the payouts work out to a 12.8% yield.
The entire mobile networks industry suffered last week when Telefonica (NYSE: TEF ) slashed its dividend on a glum Spanish forecast. This report helps France Telecom repair that damage right alongside Vodafone (NYSE: VOD ) and its relatively insulated price swings.
To some degree, I'm sad to see the low share prices go away -- that juicy dividend buys more shares when the stock is stupidly cheap! But it's always good, and far more important, to see the company reporting solid health. This stock will be around and paying massive dividends for many years and maybe even decades to come.
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