If it was just one of these things OR the other, I wouldn’t be selling AT&T out of my Dividend Portfolio.
But it’s not OR. As the company’s adds note it’s &.
The company finished 2018 with $166.3 billion in long term debt. And $10.3 billion in short-term debt.
And for 2019, the company projects that it will spend $23 billion on capital investments.
And for 2019 the company expects adjusted earnings per share growth in the low single digits. (AT&T calculates adjusted earnings per share to exclude the amortization from the WarnerMedia acquisition so reported earnings will be significantly lower.) The company’s DirectTV business, itself the object of a 2015 acquisition at a price of $63 billion, has lost 9% of its customer base since the deal closed and the erosion of the customer base has accelerated recently. That has left the company with very limited options for paying down debt. In 2019, for example, AT&T recently forecast that it will use $12 billion in cash and $6 billion to $8 billion from selling assets to reduce debt.
Right now the financial markets aren’t worried about corporate debt loads–but looking a little further down the credit cycle I see a day when companies carrying the kind of debt that AT&T now shows will become a worry. That could happen as early as 2020 if the U.S. economy should slip toward lower growth.
I’d prefer to sell my position in AT&T ahead of any increase in credit market worries.
Now all that remains is finding a replacement for that very juicy 6.82% dividend.