Why Investors and Analysts See AT&T as the Best Carrier Again

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Until recently, very recently, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) was considered down and out. There was just no catalyst at all. Now the company is nearer to closing in on its DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) acquisition. All of a sudden, analysts see massive upside for AT&T, compared to its views in the gutter just a few months ago. Investors are paying attention.

24/7 Wall St. has looked at multiple analyst upgrades in recent days and weeks. There is also an important tie in here with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), as well as how T-Mobile US Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) fit into the price wars.

The price war is catching up to the number-three and number-four carriers. Sprint was just started as Neutral with a $5.00 price target on Wednesday at Buckingham Research. Amazingly, that still implied just over 10% upside. T-Mobile was started as Buy at Buckingham, and the $50 price target implied upside of nearly 30%.

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Sprint recently removed its video throttling limits, but something strange happened. Sprint’s new CEO Marcelo Claure went after T-Mobile’s John Legere on Twitter calling “BS” on the uncarrier plan about being worse than the other two carriers combined (that is Verizon and AT&T). Claure called Legere’s cheap misleading lease imitation a joke and a fake show. And Legere had tweeted that Sprint’s All-In plan was a swing of the bat that missed.

Meanwhile, Verizon was just recently started as Neutral at Buckingham, with a $51 price target implying upside of less than 10% from the prior $47.00 close. AT&T was assigned a new Buy rating by Buckingham, and the price target of $41.00 implied upside of 15% — with both upsides of course not including those super-high dividends.

Still, what stands out is that AT&T has been upgraded or given positive research reports left and right. When we ran our own bull and bear analysis on AT&T at the start of the year, the consensus price target was listed as $34.90 at that time and the highest analyst target was $40.00. We noted:

With a dividend-adjusted performance of 0.66% in 2014, versus an expected 5.5% gain a year ago, AT&T’s total upside with the dividend included is expected to be 9.5%. And for a what-if scenario: AT&T’s highest analyst price target is up at $40. If that were to come about, AT&T could rise 20% from the end of 2014 — plus there is the super-high dividend to add in to the mix.

ALSO READ: Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Who Benefits and Who Loses Out?

Now, what about all the other recent analyst calls? AT&T has been upgraded and given higher targets across the board. Even that old $40 street high from earlier this year has been raised higher. Other key analyst calls on AT&T have been provided below.