Most investors made out nicely last year, but not every stock moved higher. There were plenty of stocks that fell out of favor with investors. They're down, but not all of them are out.
AT&T (T 1.18%), Hawaiian Holdings (HA -2.55%), and Sirius XM Holdings (SIRI 0.56%) bucked the buoyant market last year. Whether or not the market moves higher in 2021, these three stocks have the right ingredients to bounce back this year.
Ma Bell entered 2020 with a head of steam. An activist investor was lighting a fire under AT&T to maximize shareholder value. Its WarnerMedia acquisition was about to make it a power broker in a world where content is king. The rollout of 5G was supposed to be a game changer for wireless.
AT&T investors were treated to a 46% return in 2019, but the momentum didn't stick. Investors suffered a dividend-adjusted 21% slide in 2020. The stock has now moved lower in three of the past four years.
A lot of things tripped up AT&T last year. Its legacy landline business continues to fade. DIRECTV is still shedding subscribers. Shuttered multiplexes nipped the potential of WarnerMedia planned theatrical releases. The launch of HBO Max didn't gain enough traction. It failed to boost its dividend in December, threatening its status as a Dividend Aristocrat.
It's always darkest before the dawn, and the future is brighter for AT&T. Even with its payout holding steady, AT&T's yield of 7.1% is going to woo income investors and even growth investors looking to cash in some of their 2020 chips will be tempted to rotate into the out-of-favor telcos. AT&T is the largest U.S. company by market cap currently yielding at least 7%, and within that group of beefy payout providers it's the only one of the 10 largest stocks to not be in the petroleum or tobacco industries. Chasing yield is going to become fashionable in 2021, and my money's on AT&T eventually boosting its dividend again to keep its streak of yearly hikes going.
If you think AT&T sliding 21% last year was bad, Hawaiian Holdings investors suffered through a 39% plunge in 2020. No one should be surprised. The parent company of Hawaiian Airlines is naturally going to struggle in this climate. The pandemic has slammed airline stocks. Things are particularly dicey in Hawaii where the island state initially clamped down on the COVID-19 outbreak by issuing a mandatory 14-day quarantine with proof of a negative coronavirus test required for anyone traveling into Hawaii.
Unlike other airlines that cater to a balance of leisure and business travel, Hawaiian Airlines fills its planes mostly with tourists. Right now that's a problem. Folks aren't traveling, and Hawaii itself isn't making it easy. Hawaiian Holdings saw its revenue plunge nearly 90% in its latest quarter. Its larger rivals fared relatively better with 68% to 78% top-line slides for the same period.
The future will get kinder for Hawaiian Holdings. The same tourism-fueled model that's a liability right now will be an asset when the vaccinations lick the pandemic. Pent-up demand will help leisure travel recover quickly, but the same can't said for the corporate travel that its peers need to bounce back. Do you really think business trips will get back to where they were before the COVID-19 outbreak? With videoconferencing and virtual digital tools gaining momentum we're not going to see business travel recover anytime soon.
Sirius XM Holdings
Sirius XM's 9% slide in 2020 seems tame compared to AT&T and Hawaiian Holdings, but it's still a notable event. The satellite radio provider had delivered positive returns for 11 consecutive years before last year's dip.
It was easy to see investors cooling on Sirius XM during the shelter-in-place phase of the pandemic. If you weren't driving to work, running errands, or going out socially, why keep a satellite radio subscription going for your dormant car? However, churn and subscriber rates began to improve again in the latter half of 2020. It will rise again as a force of premium in-car entertainment. Howard Stern has been locked up for at least five more years with his latest contract extension, and Sirius XM has survived the threat of the connected car with its differentiated programming. Sirius XM will have a lot to prove in 2021, but every new winning streak of positive shareholder returns has to start somewhere.