With both of the big telecom companies announcing “unlimited” data plans, it’s pretty clear they are ready to compete on price and that could squeeze margins. It also looks like both are in full mergers and acquisitions mode to help as an adjunct to organic growth. So where is the best avenue for growth investors in the telecom sector now? One top analyst feels that in the near-term, the best area to focus on is the towers, which have ever-increasing demand.
In a new research note, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey makes the case that the top companies in the tower arena are far less exposed from a multiple basis investors are currently factoring in valuations. Three companies are sitting pretty in the sector, and all three are rated Buy.
This top company printed an all-time high last summer and again in November, but it has since sold off. American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT) is the largest global owner and operator of wireless and broadcast communications towers. Its portfolio includes approximately 100,000 sites in the United States, Latin America, India, Europe and Africa. The core business for the company is leasing space on its wireless towers, primarily to wireless carriers, government agencies and broadband data providers.
On a multiple basis the stock trades cheaper than the competition, and many top analysts around Wall Street feel the growth potential for the company remains among the best in the industry. The company is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings at the end of the month.
American Tower investors are paid a 2.09% distribution. The SunTrust price target for the stock is $128. The Wall Street consensus target is $129.80. The shares closed Tuesday at $111.18.
Crown Castle International
This is another top tower company that offers incredible growth and income possibilities. Crown Castle International Corp. (NYSE: CCI) provides wireless carriers with the infrastructure they need to keep people connected and businesses running. With approximately 40,000 towers and 15,000 small cell nodes supported by approximately 16,000 miles of fiber, Crown Castle is the nation’s largest provider of shared wireless infrastructure with a significant presence in the top 100 U.S. markets.
The company reported solid fourth-quarter results that beat estimates on the top and bottom line. GAAP net income fell 11.6% year over year to $124.7 million. Site Rental Segment quarterly revenues were $817.3 million, up 4.1% year over year. Network Services Segment quarterly revenues were $215 million, up 33.9% year over year.
Investors are paid a very solid 4.22% distribution. SunTrust has a $107 price target for the stock, and the consensus target is $101.47. Shares closed most recently at $90.
This one rounds out the trio of top tower companies at SunTrust. SBA Communications (NASDAQ: SBAC) is the third largest U.S. wireless tower company, with approximately 25,000 towers spread across the United States, Canada and Latin America.
The core business for SBA is leasing antenna space on its towers to various wireless service providers on a long-term basis. The company also manages rooftop and tower sites for property owners under various contractual arrangements, and it has a large site development and construction division.
The $129 SunTrust price target is less than the consensus target of $130.47. The stock closed Tuesday at $110.71.
The mobile data and content demand growth is only going to continue to accelerate, and these three top companies are the best way for aggressive accounts to play a space which is likely to stay on fire.