AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has a yield of 4.7% and trades near is 52-week high. Arch rival Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has a 4.35% yield and its shares have done as well as AT&T’s. There may be other blue chips, but none has the iron-clad balance sheets, wide moats for most of its businesses and management that largely has been viewed as steady and smart.
Few tech stocks offer any dividend at all. Verizon and AT&T can each make an argument that they belong in the tech category. Their 4G (and sometime soon 5G) networks are a marvel, each of which handles approximately 100 million people and could handle many more. And each company dwarfs many tech stocks in size. Last year, AT&T had net income of $13.4 billion on $146.8 billion in revenue. Verizon had $17.8 billion on $131.6 billion.
The wireless networks have a moat that no other company can traverse. While Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) suffers and T-Mobile US Inc. (NASDAQ: TMUS) makes modest progress in the addition of customers, Verizon and AT&T rule this business. No overseas company has pushed into the United States. From time to time, a company such as Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) will hint at universal Wi-Fi, only to find the logistics and costs are too much.
Verizon and AT&T have legacy and old wireless businesses. Very few companies would want them. However, they generate steady earnings and are another business that has virtually no competition.
The only business in which the two companies can be considered vulnerable is “cable TV.” AT&T’s U-verse and Verizon’s FiOS compete with established cable companies and satellite TV providers. AT&T has checked off the satellite box with its buyout of DirecTV. Neither company will dislodge all traditional cable, but each has a huge foothold.