With relatively stable business models and attractive dividend yields, telecom stocks can serve as the bedrock of nearly any portfolio: It's certainly not the flashiest sector, but the right telecoms can provide stable income and a fair amount of growth, as the demand for connectivity seems likely to increase exponentially in the coming years.
Although investors have plenty of stocks to choose from, a number stand out as particularly attractive. Telus (NYSE:TU), T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS), and Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) could prove profitable investments in the years ahead.
Telus pays a solid dividend
Telus is a fairly traditional telecom. It's one of Canada's largest wireless providers, but also offers paid-TV, broadband Internet, and home phone service. It pays a dividend yielding around 4% at current levels and has a long-standing commitment to future capital returns. Last year, management said explicitly that it would raise its dividend twice a year every year until at least 2017, aiming at 10% annual increases.
The primary threat to Telus' business comes from a Canadian government that is known to want a more competitive wireless industry, yet, if its recent results are any indication, Telus could withstand a fair amount of competition. Telus added more wireless subscribers than any of its rivals in the first quarter, and continued that growth by picking up another 78,000 wireless postpaid customers in the second quarter. Telus' customers are remarkably loyal -- its wireless churn was just 0.90% -- and the other portions of its business are enjoying solid growth. Telus TV and high-speed Internet customers rose 16% and 5.6%, respectively, year-over-year last quarter.
T-Mobile is an attractive takeover target
Among telecoms, T-Mobile is a bit of an outlier: the nation's fourth-largest wireless provider doesn't pay a dividend at all. What's worse, T-Mobile is aggressively valued, with a price-to-earnings ratio well north of 100 (telecoms often trade with a P/E ratio at or near the broader market -- if not below it.)
But T-Mobile is attractive for another reason: its assets and customer base make it a hot commodity. Parent company Deutsche Telekom has been actively shopping the wireless provider, and a number of firms have openly expressed interest. Sprint, which had very publicly telegraphed its acquisition intent, seems to have dropped out of the running, but France's Illiad and satellite TV provider Dish Network are potential suitors.
Even if T-Mobile is not acquired, its management has been successful in reshaping the wireless industry -- its no-contract, no-subsidy plans have (despite widespread skepticism) emerged as the industry standard, and T-Mobile's recent subscriber growth has far outpaced its rivals. It may be hyperbole, but T-Mobile's charismatic CEO John Legere has promised to overtake Sprint in U.S. wireless subscribers by the end of the year, and could be competitive with AT&T at some point in the near future.
Verizon is still the king of wireless
Verizon is a competitor to T-Mobile, and the more success T-Mobile has, the worse it could be for Verizon's business.
Yet, despite the ongoing price war in its industry, Verizon stock still appears a solid buy. In terms of 4G LTE connectivity, Verizon reigns supreme, consistently earning top marks for its network's coverage and reliability. Because of its superior network, Verizon has not been nearly as aggressive as competitor AT&T in responding to T-Mobile's campaigns, and has, over the last year, added millions more subscribers in spite of increasing competition.)
Verizon pays a solid dividend, and currently yields around 4.2%. Outside of wireless, Verizon's FiOS business continues to grow (revenue up 4.2% last quarter,) and after purchasing Intel's Internet-based TV business, is expected to push into Internet video some time next year.
Verizon has lagged the broader market year-to-date, but increasing demand for its superior network should make Verizon a solid investment for the foreseeable future.