Telecom & Wireless

Top Analyst Raises Price Targets on Red-Hot Tower Stocks

If there is one item that has become ubiquitous over the past 25 years for almost everybody, it’s a cellular phone, and in many cases now that means a smartphone. With major carriers continuing to improve coverage, it is almost impossible to be somewhere these days and unable to use your phone. That coverage, however, comes with a price, and one sector that continues to benefit is the towers.

A new research report from Greg Miller and his team at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey makes the case that new deployments by the big carriers is huge for the tower companies, and the report noted this:

We believe the accelerating activity levels of AT&T (NYSE: T) in deploying the FirstNet spectrum in addition to the WCS and AWS-3 bands provides greater clarity on the developing tailwinds for the tower industry for the next 3 years. In combination with other AWS-3, 600 MHz and maybe DISH deployments, we believe our average estimate of 150 basis points or 1.5% potential increase in revenue growth could prove conservative.

The analysts raise the firm’s price target on three top stocks in the industry, and all are rated Buy.

American Tower

This wireless tower company is a top pick on Wall Street and is acknowledged as an industry leader. 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 reported strong second-quarter results, with revenue and adjusted EBITDA above Wall Street forecasts, and other firms besides SunTrust raised their price targets.

American Tower investors are paid a 1.75% distribution. The SunTrust price target was raised to $157 from $148. The Wall Street consensus target is $152.09, and shares closed Tuesday at $146.94.

Crown Castle International

This is another top tower company that offers incredible growth and income possibilities. Crown Castle International Corp. (NYSE: CCI) is one of the largest U.S. wireless tower companies, with over 40,000 towers across the country. Its core business is leasing space on its wireless towers primarily to wireless carriers, government agencies and broadband data providers.

The company recently announced its intention to acquire private fiber company Lightower for $7.1 billion. Wall Street applauded the purchase, with most analysts citing the accretive transaction as a huge positive for the company’s growth metrics. SunTrust feels that the company could grow 2018 EBITDA by 8.7%, versus the current 6.7% estimate, and that excludes the Lightower numbers.

Investors receive a 3.55% distribution. The $108 SunTrust price objective was lifted to $115, while the posted consensus target is $109.22. The stock closed Tuesday at $107.03.

SBA Communications

This one rounds out the trio of top tower companies getting a boost 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 company reported inline second-quarter results, and the analysts feel that the company has EBITDA growth upside to 9.0%, versus the current 6.7% estimates. They also see site rental revenue coming in higher than current estimates.

SunTrust raised its price target to $167 from $154. The consensus target is $154.95, and the stock closed Tuesday at $151.16.

The mobile data 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 that should stay on fire. The stocks have run hard, so it may make sense to buy partial positions and see if the shares don’t pullback some in the fall.