Owners of AT&T (T) have been willing to overlook the company’s lack of growth, its “amusing” strategic plan, and its wandering goals because, hey, the shares paid 6.45%. That’s a dividend to make up for a multitude of corporate sins when the 10-year Treasury is yielding just 1.65%.
But today owners discovered that as part of its deal to spin off and combine its Warner media assets with Discovery into a new company WarnerMedia/Discovery (AT&T shareholders will own 7%) AT&T will “reset” its dividend to 40% of free cash flow. (The deal will yield $43 billion in cash and other assets for AT&T to use to pay down debt.)
Management estimates that free cash flow will be at last $20 billion in 2023. Which would make $8 billion available for paying dividends–or about $1.1 a share for each of the company’s 7.19 billion shares. AT&T currently pays out a dividend of $2.08 a share.
If post-spin off AT&T traded for the same dividend yield as Verizon (VZ), the stock would be worth about $25.88 a share.
Of course, AT&T shareholders also own 71% of the new WarnerMedia/Discovery. Calculating that that’s worth per share isn’t easy especially because the entire streaming media space is in upheaval thanks to Amazon’s (AMZN) bid for the entertainment library of the old MGM studio (now in private equity ownership.) I’d have to imagine that a company that owns HBO and HBO Max would be worth something. But exactly how much at a time when it’s clear that many of the current smaller streaming players won’t survive or will have to be acquired?
AT&T shares closed down 5.80% on Tuesday, May 18, to $29.55.