Tuesday, June 25, 2024

With a dividend yield over 7%, are Telstra shares a buy for income?

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Telstra Group Ltd (ASX: TLS) shares have significantly declined over the past year, dropping by 20%.

This means the Telstra share price currently offers a higher level of dividend income because the dividend yield increases when a share price falls.

After the valuation decline for the ASX telco share, let’s examine what income Telstra investors are getting now.

How big is the dividend yield today?

Telstra told investors that solid cash flow conversion and generation supported “flexibility to grow dividends and invest” and that it wanted to maintain “balance sheet strength and flexibility while seeking to grow dividends”.

The last two dividends declared by Telstra amounted to 17.5 cents, delivering a fully franked dividend yield of 5.1% and a grossed-up dividend yield of 7.2%.

But those dividends are history. What could the future payouts be for owners of Telstra shares?

The broker UBS has predicted Telstra could pay a dividend per share of 18 cents per share in FY24 and 19 cents per share in FY25. That translates into forward grossed-up dividend yields of 7.5% and 7.9%, respectively. That’s much more than what you can get from a savings account.

But there’s more to a sound investment than just the dividend yield. Ideally, I’d like to see profit growth over the longer term. Profit generation funds the dividend payments, so bigger profits can enable large payouts. Higher profits can also support a higher Telstra share price.

Are Telstra shares a buy?

Pleasingly, every six months, Telstra typically reports that it has added significant additional subscribers. In the first half of FY24, Telstra revealed that its mobile services in operation (SIO) grew by 4.6%, or 625,000 subscribers. I believe mobile subscriber growth will be the critical driver of underlying profit.

Telstra has already spent the capital on its networks and built the infrastructure. The additional subscribers can help boost revenue and margins.

The company recently acknowledged its enterprise business wasn’t performing and announced job cuts in the division, with up to 2,800 roles to be removed. Most of the cuts are expected to occur by the end of the 2024 calendar year.

With those cuts and other actions, Telstra expects to achieve $350 million of its T25 cost reduction goal by the end of FY25. One-off restructuring costs are expected to be between $200 million and $250 million across FY24 and FY25.

The company has guided that its underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) for FY25 is expected to be between $8.4 billion and $8.7 billion. That would be growth compared to the guidance range for FY24 (which hasn’t finished yet) of between $8.2 billion and $8.3 billion.

At this lower Telstra share price, I think it’s a buy. The underlying profit and dividend are growing, and the lower valuation looks more appealing. According to UBS, the Telstra share price is valued at 19x FY24’s estimated earnings.

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