AT&T’s (NYSE:T) plans to spin-off/merge its WarnerMedia unit with Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA) may be the right move strategically. But, with its related plans to slash its dividend, investors who’ve bought into T stock for its yield haven’t been too happy.
After the announcement, shares in “Ma Bell” saw an immediate drop, falling from around $32 per share, to briefly under $29 share. Since then, the stock has held steady at this price level, and has struggled to get back above $30 per share.
Several publications, including Barron’s, have made the case that this deal will unlock shareholder value. That is, the gains from the spin-off will more than make up for the diminished dividend.
Yet, this won’t happen unless shares in the combined Warner Bros. Discovery soar. There is a path for this to happen (mainly due to multiple expansion). But, with the spin-off not set to wrap up until mid-2022, it’s going to take time for this to play out.
In the meantime, AT&T shares could continue to pull back. This may mean a more attractive entry point may emerge. But, as it trades for around fair value today, there’s little reason to dive in immediately. Not only that, there are scores of more solid dividend and media opportunities out there for investors.
After the Drop, T Stock Is Trading at Fair Value
Some may see AT&T now as a great “buy the dip” opportunity. Yet, it’s not as if shares have fallen to a discounted price following the news. Running the numbers, shares appear accurately priced at today’s levels.
How so? Based on what you get when you sum up the parts (telecom, media). First, what’s a fair value for the company, after the spin-off, and after the so-called “dividend resizing” happens? Analysts estimate an up to 50% haircut from its current annual payout of $2.08 per share. Worst case scenario, let’s say that means the dividend falls a full 50%, to $1.04 per share.
Assuming shares in the stand-alone telecom company are re-priced in-line with the way rival Verizon (NYSE:VZ) stock is priced (forward yield of 4.41%), that means a valuation of around $23.63 per share. Add in an $6 per share (based on the Barron’s analysis) valuation of the combined Warner Bros. Discovery shares AT&T investors will receive, and that brings us to less than 2% above today’s current share price ($29.27 per share).
In short, while dividend investors have started heading for the exits, there’s not yet a discount priced into shares. With the deal not set to close until next year, there’s plenty of time for T stock to hold steady (or even head lower) from today’s prices.
Shares Could Trade Sideways (or Slide) While the Spin-Off Is Pending
With the around 10% decline in AT&T’s share price since the restructuring news, some may believe it’s been fully absorbed. The other shoe may have dropped when it comes to the much-feared dividend cut. Yet, the pullback may not be over just yet. Sure, it’s possible shares hold steady at or around today’s prices. This stock has historically had long stretches of trading sideways, given its main appeal is as a dividend play.
But, while it may seem like the upcoming changes are more than factored-in, and that those who are mad about the dividend cut have cashed out, that may not necessarily be the case. Again, the spin-off, and the changes to the dividend, aren’t happening until next year. In the interim, the company will still make its fat quarterly payout.
Some income investors may still be holding on, intending to collect one or two more dividend checks before selling. Now, I don’t see this factor having a massive impact on the price of T stock. But, this, coupled with other concerns (such as the company’s “also ran status” in the 5G horse race) may push it back down to its 52-week lows ($26.35 per share).
Putting it simply, those buying immediately after the bad news may see mixed results from here. Yet, for those taking their time, a move to lower prices means a much more optimal entry point.
Wait for Another Pullback or Look for Better Yield Play
Those keen on AT&T shares could have a more opportune entry point open up in the coming months. But, if you’re interested in either dividend stocks, or media stocks, you have scores of stronger options out there. When it comes to dividend stocks, there are many sporting high-yields, with little risk of a cut. As for media stocks? There are a few that could gain big, as big media deal-making heats up.
Bottom line: there are much better dividend or media plays out there. But, if you’re still like what you see with the T stock restructuring, take your time before buying.
On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Thomas Niel, a contributor for InvestorPlace.com, has been writing single-stock analysis for web-based publications since 2016.