AT&T, Verizon Plummet To Multidecade Lows: Toxic Lead Investigation Sparks Telco Sell-Off, Analysts Head For The Exits

Zinger Key Points
  • Major telecommunications stocks came under strong selling pressure on Monday, as Wall Street's investigation triggered analysts actions.
  • A Citigroup analyst believes that this issue will continue to have an impact on telcos stocks valuation for a few months, if not longer.

Shares in telecom giants AT&T Inc T, Verizon Communication Inc VZ, Telephone and Data Systems, Inc TDS, and Frontier Communication Parent, Inc FYBR dropped dramatically Monday, shedding 7% to 15%. The Wall Street Journal’s investigation revealing the neglect of a network of harmful lead-coated cables prompted the market backlash.

In a note released Monday, Citigroup analyst Michael Rollins examined the situation regarding the cable network deployed by these telecom companies nationwide.

According to Rollins, a considerable percentage of these cables may have lead sheathing, with varied amounts of exposure for each company. As a result, the analyst believes that this issue will continue to have an impact on stocks and their valuation for a few months, if not longer, until the market has a better understanding of the financial risk involved.

Rollins stated that gathering more information regarding the matter could take several months, and that a final resolution could take years. According to Citigroup’s current scenario estimate, most wireline telecommunications companies will experience a firm valuation discount ranging from 0.2x to 1.0x of EBITDA.

Also Read: Tesla Prepares To Double Berlin Factory Size, Aiming For 1 Million EVs Annually

Chart: AT&T Tumbles to February 1993 Levels, Verizon to November 2010

Citigroup Actions

In response to recent developments, Citigroup has downgraded its ratings on AT&T, Telephone and Data Systems, and Frontier Communication to Neutral/High Risk. While the price targets for these stocks have been reduced to $16, $8, and $17, respectively.

ETF That Holds Telcos

The U.S.-listed exchange-traded funds with the highest exposure to AT&T are the iShares MSCI USA Value Factor ETF VLUE with a 5.1% weight and the iShares U.S. Telecommunications ETF IYZ with a 4.2% weight.

The iShares Trust – iShares U.S. Telecommunications ETF also has a large stake in Verizon (12.4%), which is also represented by an 8.3% weight in the First Trust Morningstar Dividend Leaders Index Fund FDL.

Frontier Communication is a 3% holding in the SPDR S&P Telecom ETF XTL.

Telcos’ Response

In response to the investigation, AT&T and USTelecom, an industry group, developed websites debunking concerns about the environmental and public health implications of lead cables.

A spokesperson for USTelecom emphasized that there is no evidence that legacy lead-sheathed telecom cables are a significant source of lead exposure or a public health concern. The representative additionally stressed the importance of safe work procedures in the telecommunications industry in avoiding worker exposure to lead.

Read now: AT&T Stock Is Trading Lower: What’s Going On?

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