Far better Purchase: AT&T vs. Comcast

AT&T (NYSE:T) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) are two of America’s largest telecom and media conglomerates. Each businesses give broadband internet, spend Television set, landline, and wi-fi providers in the U.S.

Equally providers are also media juggernauts. AT&T’s WarnerMedia division owns Warner Bros., HBO, and the Turner Cable Networks. Comcast’s NBCUniversal owns NBC, Universal Studios, its eponymous concept parks, and a broad portfolio of cable networks.

A man looks at a tablet filled with videos split into separate screens.

Graphic source: Getty Illustrations or photos.

More than the past 5 decades, AT&T’s inventory has declined far more than 20% as it’s struggled with unwieldy acquisitions, soaring financial debt, levels of competition in the wi-fi marketplace, and the gradual dying of its fork out Television company.

All through the identical interval, Comcast’s stock has rallied approximately 90% as the toughness of its internet, media, and topic park enterprises offset some of its other weaknesses. Will Comcast keep on to outperform AT&T in excess of the up coming several decades? Let us just take a contemporary glance at both of those companies to locate out.

AT&T is spinning too lots of plates

AT&T’s new problems begun in 2015, when it acquired DirecTV for $66 billion to broaden its fork out Tv set organization. Nonetheless, the system has repeatedly dropped subscribers to streaming solutions like Netflix.

To counter that secular drop, AT&T bought Time Warner for $85 billion in 2018 to build its individual streaming providers. People big acquisitions, along with its buys of some spectrum licenses, induced its complete credit card debt to soar from $82.1 billion at the close of 2014 to $147.5 billion at the stop of 2020.

AT&T launched several streaming solutions very last yr, but the pandemic severely disrupted WarnerMedia’s Television set and motion picture businesses. In the meantime, its pay back Tv small business continued to bleed subscribers, culminating in its selection to spin off a stake in DirecTV in a joint undertaking in February.

As AT&T tried using to offset the decrease of its pay Television company by expanding its streaming solutions, T-Cell merged with Sprint and changed it as the next-premier wi-fi provider in the U.S. after Verizon. As a result of the use of extended-selection 5G networks, T-Cellular also surpassed both of those AT&T and Verizon in conditions of total community coverage.

AT&T’s most current earnings experiences uncovered a few green shoots, like the development of HBO Max and the stabilization of the firm’s wi-fi organization, but its weaknesses continue to offset most of its strengths — which induced its revenue and adjusted earnings to drop 5% and 11%, respectively, in fiscal 2020.

Wall Avenue expects AT&T’s profits to rise less than 1% this calendar year and for its earnings to dip 1% as it proceeds its painful turnaround. Which is why its stock still doesn’t appear to be cheap at nine situations forward earnings.

Comcast’s moves make a great deal more sense

Comcast also designed quite a few acquisitions more than the earlier 5 yrs, which include Dreamworks Animation in 2016, Sky in 2018, and the totally free streaming media system Xumo past year. It also partnered with Verizon to start a wi-fi provider known as Xfinity Mobile.

A young woman watches TV in a dark room.

Image source: Getty Visuals.

Even so, Comcast spent drastically much less revenue on those promotions than AT&T, and they each and every in shape neatly into its media business. Dreamworks added much more animated movies to its theatrical slate although providing its topic parks additional qualities to work with, Sky expanded its portfolio of cable networks and its get to in the U.K. sector, Xumo supported the start of Comcast’s no cost Peacock streaming company, and Xfinity Mobile increased its telco bundles.

Comcast’s extensive-time period credit card debt also rose considerably, from $48.2 billion in fiscal 2014 to $103.8 billion in 2020, but its main small business stays additional steady than AT&T’s.

Past 12 months, steep revenue declines at NBCUniversal — which struggled with reduce advertisement revenue, postponed videos, and closures at its topic parks during the pandemic — offset the much better progress of the cable communications segment’s world-wide-web and wi-fi businesses. That is why Comcast’s income and altered earnings declined 5% and 17%, respectively, in fiscal 2020.

Nonetheless, analysts hope Comcast’s income and earnings to rise 8% and 9%, respectively, this year as its media company recovers and its topic parks reopen. The Olympic Game titles in Japan should also bring much more viewers to NBC this year, as they did in past a long time, and possibly deliver much more streaming viewers to Peacock.

Comcast may possibly in the beginning feel pricier than AT&T at 16 times forward earnings, but it truly is actually a lot more cost-effective relative to its development.

But what about the dividends?

AT&T’s forward dividend yield of 6.9% is considerably bigger than Comcast’s 1.8% yield. On the other hand, AT&T also consistently wiped out most of its dividend gains with its declining stock cost. In excess of the past 5 years, AT&T created a complete return of 3% immediately after factoring in reinvested dividends. Comcast created a whole return of 107% through the same period.

Previous overall performance in no way guarantees future gains, but AT&T’s ongoing troubles counsel it will continue to underperform Comcast, which should conveniently get back its footing right after the pandemic passes. 


This write-up signifies the feeling of the author, who may possibly disagree with the “official” advice placement of a Motley Idiot top quality advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even 1 of our have — allows us all consider critically about investing and make decisions that aid us turn out to be smarter, happier, and richer.