We’re in the busiest time of earnings season, with over one-fourth of the S&P listed companies set to release quarterly reports in the coming days. Based on the S&P members that have reported so far, results are good. Total earnings are up 2.6%, and revenues are up 2.9%. While slow, this growth is better than the losses predicted before earnings got underway.
Here, we look at three blue chip stocks which are reporting earnings this week. They are mainstays of investment portfolios, some are favorites of big-name investors, and all are available at a share price of $55 or less.
AT&T, Inc. (T)
The venerable phone company is well-known as one of the best dividend stocks on Wall Street. AT&T offers investors a 6.22% dividend yield – one of the highest among S&P-listed companies – with a current annual payout of $2.04 per share.
The dividend is important because T shares show a somewhat shaky earnings future. The company took on tremendous debt last year when it acquired Time Warner; however, free cash flow since then has been sufficient to meet the dividend and the debt service. While AT&T carries $169 billion in debt, the company says that it can pay off 75% of the Time Warner purchase debt by the end of this calendar year.
That will be major achievement, and investors will be looking for evidence that it is realistic. AT&T is counting on the acquisition to power its move toward content creation and distribution as it moves into the streaming landscape. The acquisition of Time Warner was intended to bring a solid content provider to T’s DirecTV segment, and boost declining subscriber numbers. On the earnings front, Wall Street expects T to show 89 cents EPS on July 24, up from 86 in the last quarter, but down 2.2% year-over-year.
Looking toward T’s performance, JPMorgan analyst Philip Cusick wrote back in May that he expects a net loss of 2.9 million DirecTV subscribers in 2019 before seeing trends improve in 2020. At the same time, he expects “average revenue per remaining user to increase 3.4% this year, to $119.65.” His bottom line on the stock: “Sentiment should improve as the trajectory of sub losses improves in late 2019, but our sense is that investors are starting to look past it already—in the meantime the 6.2% dividend will continue to come through.” Cusick’s price target of $38 of suggests an upside of 15% to the T shares.
Earlier this month, Citigroup’s Michael Rollins also put a buy rating on T, and bumped his price target up 8.8% to $37. His new target implies an upside of 12% to the stock.
Shares in AT&T are selling for $32.79, and the stock holds a strong buy from the analyst consensus. That rating is based on 8 buys and 2 holds given in the past three months. The average price target, $36, suggests that T has room for 9% upside.
Coca-Cola Company (KO)
Investing guru Warren Buffett has long been a fan of Coca-Cola, both the drink and the stock. He sees the stock as a staple, bringing slow and steady profits, and paying out a reliable 3.1% dividend yield of $1.60 per share annualized. Coca-Cola bases its performance on a solid, and growing, line-up of beverage products.
Heading into fiscal Q2, Coca-Cola’s stock is trading just 1.5% below its 52-week high point. The stock hasn’t always had such good times; starting in Q2 2015, the company saw revenues drop every quarter until Q4 2018. The trend has begun to reverse, however, and in Q3 2017 EPS began to grow again, while last quarter, Q1 2019, saw a revenue gain of 5.2%.
More health-conscious consumers have been putting pressure on the company, as they shift away from sodas in the US domestic market. Coca-Cola has responded by diversifying its product line, to offer drinks across all segments of the beverage market. The company is already well-known for its Dasani water and Minute Maid juices; the company also owns Costa Coffee and Fuze Beverages.
So far, the strategy appears to be working, and KO’s Q2 sales are expected to show an increase of 8.83%, powering a revenue jump of 12%. The expected EPS of 62 cents is 3.3% higher than the year-ago quarter, and 29% higher than Q1. The quarterly earnings are scheduled for release on July 23.
Dara Mohsenian, of Morgan Stanley, keeps KO as his ‘top overweight pick,’ saying “the beverage maker offers a growth profile that is underappreciated by the Street.” He adds, “On a two-year average basis, Coca-Cola managed to improve its organic topline growth by 80 basis points in the past few quarters which is above the 70 basis point range many of its peers are showing.”
In line with his upbeat outlook on KO, Mohsenian increased his price target by 3.6%, from $55 to $57, indicating confidence in the stock and an upside potential of 11%.
Coca-Cola’s analyst consensus rating is a moderate buy, based on 4 buys and 5 holds set in the past three months. The average price target, $52.29, is only 1.75% higher than the current share price of $51.39. These numbers reflect the stock’s ongoing transition away from the losses of recent years and towards the upbeat outlook detailed by Mohsenian.
Ford Motor Company (F)
Our third pick, Ford Motor, may be the most controversial here. Like Coca-Cola, it has a mixed rating, but it also the highest potential upside, the lowest cost of entry, and the second-highest dividend yield of the stocks in this list. In addition, shares in Ford are up 33% year-to-date, far outpacing the S&P 500’s 18.5% gain.
Ford maintains its position by its popular and profitable lineup of pickup trucks. The F-Series (F-150, F-250, and F-350) are consistent best-sellers, and have led the US market in automobile sales since 1986. In 2018 alone, F-Series trucks brought the company $41 billion in revenues. According to Jim Farley, Ford’s head of global markets, that sales performance makes the F-Series a more valuable brand than Coca-Cola.
Ford’s management is essentially using the popular and high-margin trucks and SUVs as a cushion while the company is in the process of reducing its small-car sales and developing lines of electric and autonomous vehicles. Possession of such an asset – the F-Series brand – has helped keep Ford’s revenues mostly stable in recent quarters, with revenue volatility in the past three years holding in an 8% range.
Looking forward to the Q2 earnings report, Ford’s revenues are expected to come in at $34.86 billion, a slip of 2.9% from the year-ago quarter. True to Ford’s form, Q3 guidance predicts gain of 2.7%. Q2 EPS is expected between 30 and 33 cents, a gain of 11% to 22% over last year’s Q2. EPS for FY2019 is expected at $1.38, a gain of 6.15% from FY2018.
Recent analyst reviews of Ford have focused on the company’s strategic partnership with Volkswagen in developing electric and autonomous vehicles. RBC’s Joseph Spak, while keeping a hold on the stock, increased his price target by 10%, to $11, after Ford announced plans to work with VW and Argo AI developing a high volume EV in the European market. Spak says that Ford management deserves high credit for strategic thinking. His price target is 7% above Ford’s current share price.
On the bull side is UBS analyst Colin Langan, who boosted his price target to $13 and put a buy rating on the stock. Looking at the European market and Ford’s initiatives in the EV segment, he says, “Given the upcoming European regulation shifts, this should help Ford avoid emission fines.” Langan’s price target suggests a 27% upside to Ford shares.
Overall, Ford has a moderate buy from the analyst consensus based on an even split of 6 buys and 6 holds. Shares trade for $10.20 with an average price target of $11.77, giving the company’s stock an upside potential of 15%.