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Will the 5G Revolution Bring Upside to Nokia Stock?

Thomas Niel

Nokia (NYSE:NOK) stock saw a brief pop last month thanks to an earnings beat … but can that move in NOK stock last much longer?

NOK Stock: Will the 5G Revolution Bring Upside to Nokia?

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The release of second-quarter financials on July 25 boosted shares from $5.18 per share up to $5.60 per share. However, since then, Nokia stock has fallen back to about $5.40 share.

Increased demand for 5G technology helped improve sales 7% year-over-year. But the company continues to post net losses due to restructuring and impairment charges. With a turnaround still in progress, is NOK worth a buy today?

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While the company has positive catalysts in the works, Nokia has missed the mark many times in the past. Let’s take a closer look, and see if there is additional upside for Nokia stock.

NOK Earnings: A Deeper Look

The company’s financials are clouded by goodwill impairment and amortization charges. This is primarily related to the company’s 2016 merger with Alcatel-Lucent. There are also restructuring charges related to their cost savings plan. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the company’s adjusted earnings. Adjusted (non-IFRS) operating profits exclude these charges. This provides a clearer picture of Nokia’s operating performance. Non-IFRS operating profits were up 35% year-over-year. Adjusted earnings-per-share (EPS) of 0.05 euros were up 67% from the prior year’s quarter.

With annual cost savings of $700 million euros anticipated by 2020, the company has runway to improve operating margins. In terms of organic growth, the 5G revolution provides plenty of gas to grow revenues. Nokia’s full-year outlook projects adjusted EPS of 0.25-0.29 euros. The company anticipates additional earnings growth in 2020, with projected adjusted EPS of 0.37-0.42 euros/share for next year.

As InvestorPlace contributor James Brumley pointed out last month, Nokia has been landing 5G contracts left and right. NOK has signed over 42 end users, including China Mobile (NYSE:CHL), China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) and Sprint (NYSE:S). But the company still needs to execute. This presents a material risk for NOK stock. The company has set up high expectations. If they fail to deliver, new opportunities could dry up, sending NOK shares lower.

There are additional risks to consider. As 5G reaches critical mass, competition will likely heat up. The U.S.-China trade war could accelerate, negatively impacting Nokia’s business in both countries. But what does this mean for investors entering Nokia stock today? Can they enter the stock at a discount, or will they have to pay a premium? Let’s take a look at the valuation of NOK stock, and see how it stacks up to peers.

Nokia’s Valuation

NOK stock currently trades at a trailing twelve month Enterprise Value/EBITDA (EV/EBITDA) ratio of 10.1. This is a slight discount to competitors such as Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), which trades at an EV/EBITDA ratio of 13.8. Nokia stock also trades at a discount other telecom equipment manufacturers. LM Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), for example, trades at an EV/EBITDA ratio of 11.6; Motorola Solutions (NYSE:MSI) trades at an EV/EBITDA ratio of 16.7.

It is important to note that NOK has lower EBITDA margins. The company’s EBITDA margins are 11.4%, which pales in comparison to both Cisco and Motorola Solutions. Cisco has EBITDA margins of 30.8%. Motorola Solutions has EBITDA margins of 26.2%. However, the company’s operating margins are in line with LM Ericsson, which has an EBITDA margin of 9.8%.


But is this discount warranted?

Nokia has dropped the ball many times in the past. This under-performance has burned contrarian investors trying to call a bottom. Is the 5G revolution Nokia’s “this time it’s different” moment? The company faces many risks in executing the 5G rollout. But much of this negative sentiment is priced into shares, as seen by the discount to peers. This means investors could see tremendous upside if the company’s 5G sales meet expectations.

Nokia stock presents a high risk/high return opportunity for investors. But does this make the stock a screaming buy? While the company’s future prospects are not set in stone, the positive catalysts in play make this opportunity a strong buy for long-term investors.

Bottom Line on NOK Stock

Nokia releases third-quarter earnings in late October. This gives investors several months to enter a position in NOK stock before additional information makes the bull case (or bear case) for shares. NOK trades at a discount to peers. If they can execute 5G successfully, the company’s fortunes could materially improve. This would be a shot in the arm for Nokia stock.

As it stands now, what’s the play with NOK?

In the short-term, investors may be not see upside. Shares will likely trade sideways, pending new developments on the 5G front. However, long-term, Nokia may be the right contrarian play in the telecom space. For investors looking for speculative opportunities in large-cap stocks, Nokia stock may just be a buy.

As of this writing, Thomas Neil did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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