Now that the electoral college has confirmed Donald Trump’s victory, one thing is sure: change is on the way — and it is expected to be big. Trump has made it clear that lowering taxes is a priority, and with good reason, especially on the corporate level. American companies are among the highest taxed in the world, and lower nominal rates could make a huge difference.
In a new research report, Merrill Lynch makes the case that three of the largest telecoms could be huge beneficiary of lower corporate tax rates. The report notes that the largest telecoms are substantial tax payers, and a lower corporate rate could have an immediate impact on the companies’ free cash flow. The analyst also feels that Wall Street is waking up to the potential benefits.
Merrill Lynch highlights three Buy-rated stocks as potential winners.
This company has had an incredible run this year and has rallied back smartly from lows printed in November. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the world’s largest provider of pay TV, with TV customers in the United States and 11 Latin American countries. In the United States, the AT&T wireless network has the nation’s self-described strongest 4G LTE signal and most reliable 4G LTE. The company also helps businesses worldwide serve their customers better with mobility and highly secure cloud solutions.
With its shares trading at a very cheap 14.3 times estimated 2016 earnings, the company continues to expand its user base, and strong product introductions from smartphone vendors have not only driven traffic but increased device financing plans.
AT&T is in the Merrill Lynch US 1 portfolio and has several major catalysts likely to drive strong network traffic demand: DirecTV Now and Mobile, “Data-Free TV” for DirecTV/U-Verse subscribers and increasing penetration of unlimited data plans. Many on Wall Street believe that the company is well-positioned to address ongoing traffic requirements, with additional LTE capacity available and the ability to leverage small cell deployments.
Other top Wall Street analysts have cited the company’s positive commentary on free cash flow and improving video/broadband trends later this year, with single truck-roll and new converged offerings expected to be coming next month.
AT&T investors receive a 4.62% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price objective for the stock is $46. The Wall Street consensus target price is $41.29. Shares closed Tuesday at $42.47.
This is the largest of the rural local exchange carriers and is expected to continue get a large dose of government money to provide continuing internet service in rural areas. CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) is a global communications, hosting, cloud and IT services company enabling millions of customers to transform their businesses through innovative technology solutions.
CenturyLink offers network and data systems management, Big Data analytics and IT consulting, and it operates more than 55 data centers in North America, Europe and Asia. The company provides broadband, voice, video, data and managed services over a robust 250,000-route-mile U.S. fiber network and a 300,000-route-mile international transport network.
Top Wall Street analysts have liked like the stock over the past year as the company transforms itself from a telecom to a technology company. While some have worried over CenturyLink maintaining the dividend, most are positive on the comparisons for the second half of the year and sequential revenue stability.
The company announced last month plans to sell its data centers and colocation business to a consortium led by BC Partners for $2.3 billion, which it will use in part to fund its planned tie-up with Level 3 Communications. Under the terms of the agreement, CenturyLink also will receive a $150 million minority stake in the consortium’s new global secure infrastructure company.
CenturyLink investors receive an 8.95% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $42 price target, while the consensus target is at $28.08. Shares closed on Tuesday at $24.13.
This is another top telecommunications pick at Merrill Lynch for 2017. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is a global leader in delivering the digital world. Verizon Wireless operates America’s self-described most reliable wireless network, with 109.5 million retail connections nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network, and it delivers integrated business solutions to customers worldwide.
The company reported solid third-quarter earnings; however, revenues came in short of Wall Street and Merrill Lynch expectations. Verizon also recently announced the purchase of Yahoo’s core operating business for $4.8 billion in cash. The analysts feel it plays into Verizon’s strategic drive to expand into advertising and content, and they also think the transaction is largely immaterial from a financial perspective. Given yet another revelation recently of a huge customer account hack, this deal is undoubtedly being reviewed and possibly renegotiated
Investors receive a 4.35% dividend. The $59 Merrill Lynch price objective compares with the $52.55 consensus target. The shares closed Tuesday at $53.12.
These stocks make good sense for total return growth and income accounts. While they may appear to be slow-grow telecom carriers, all have big new deals in the works to expand their capability, deals that may boost growth in the future.