Telstra Corporation Limited (TLS) is a provider of telecommunications and information products and services, arguably best known as Australia’s dominant telco company.
Its principal activities are the provision of telephone lines; national local, and long distance, and international telephone calls; mobile telecommunications; data; internet and on-line; wholesale; telephone directories; and pay TV.
TLS owns a 50% stake in Foxtel while Newscorp (NWS) and Consolidated Media Holdings (CMJ) hold 25% each.
Results confirm turnaround
TLS’s 1H FY12 results showed a return to EBITDA growth after years of stagnation. EBITDA grew 3.7% to $4,750 million when compared to the $4,580 million in FY11.
Total revenue climbed by 1.1% to $12,419 million, whilst operating expenses declined 1% to $7,751 million over the same period.
One of the major earnings drivers for the company is its mobiles products; revenue was up 10.9% to $4,393 million year on year. Revenue from this product line alone makes up of one-third of TLS’ revenue.
The growth in Mobiles is impressive, especially when considering EBITDA margin of 34% was considerably higher than Optus’ 25.9% and Vodafone & Three’s 16.3%.
TLS has the only 4G network in Australia and with many new mobile phones being designed with 4G capabilities, the company can continue to experience strong growth in this market.
$11 billion NBN booty
Earlier this month TLS finalised its definitive agreements with NBN Co and the government for its participation in the NBN rollout.
The agreement will provide the company with approximately $11 billion in post-tax net present value over the long term life of the agreement.
The $11 billion includes compensation from the government for decommissioning its copper network and allowing the NBN to use some of its infrastructure.
In a strategy update on April 19th, TLS said it expected to generate $2 – $3 billion in free cash flow over the next three years, subject to the NBN roll out schedule and market conditions.
TLS also said that it didn’t have the franking capacity to increase dividends before 2014 and that it had no immediate plans for a share buyback.
Arguably a better longer-term share price driver for a company is the implementation of a dividend increase over a buyback.
A dividend increase signals confidence in the long-term prospects of a company, and that TLS’ management has recognised this is a positive thing for shareholders.
Widening yield differential signals positive outlook
TLS is currently trading on a forecast yield (28c for FY12) of over 8.5%, fully franked. This is equivalent to 12.1% pre-tax.
TLS has been able to maintain a 28 cent per share dividend since FY07 and has forecast the same amount for FY12 and FY13.
Given the healthy sums of cash TLS is generating and following this month’s strategy update, we would anticipate a dividend increase from 2014.
When considering the next likely move in interest rates is down, we believe income-oriented investors will increasingly prefer TLS’s dividend yield over potentially lower interest rates on their savings accounts.
As such we think TLS is a stock to watch in the coming months.
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