Vodafone Group PLC (NASDAQ: VOD) has outperformed over the past quarter. After it reported strong earnings and even stronger guidance, one independent research firm upgraded the stock and sees even more upside going forward.
This company is driving organic growth by encouraging customers to merge their fixed and mobile services. In March 2016, the company completed the implementation of “Project Spring,” its two-year, 26.2 billion euro initiative to boost revenue and earnings from mobile data offerings. Project Spring has helped to make the company’s 4G coverage available to 87% of the population in its European markets. Vodafone continues to improve market share: 62% of its active European customers currently receive 4G service, up from 49% a year earlier.
In addition to organic growth, Vodafone is growing through acquisitions. In February 2016, Vodafone and Liberty Global agreed to combine their operations in the Netherlands in a 50/50 joint venture. In June 2016, Vodafone agreed to combine its New Zealand operations with those of Sky Network Television, New Zealand’s leading pay-TV provider. The deal has been put on hold, however, as New Zealand regulators have raised questions about competition.
Argus upgraded Vodafone to a Buy rating from Hold with a $32 price target, compared with a $28.46 closing price. The independent research firm commented in its report:
We are raising our rating on Vodafone Group plc (NGS: VOD), a major international telecom provider, to BUY from HOLD. Over the last five years, the company has transformed itself from a pure-play mobile operator to one offering a broad mix of communications services, including fixed broadband, video content, cloud and website hosting. It also recently completed a two-year capital investment program, which has significantly expanded its offerings and strengthened the capability of its network. We expect these efforts to boost earnings over time as the company monetizes its rising data traffic and growing customer base. The balance sheet is solid, and management recently boosted the dividend, which yields about 5.7%. For long-term investors, we think that VOD shares are suitable holdings in a diversified portfolio. Our 12-month target price is $32.
Shares of Vodafone were traded up 1.4% at $28.87 on Monday, with a consensus analyst price target of $34.11 and a 52-week range of $24.17 to $31.69.