A few years ago, Telecom Plus (LSE: TEP) was the must-have telecoms stock. In fact, it was more than that. Trading as the Utilities Warehouse, the company bundles telecoms together with electricity and gas, offering members discounts and relying on satisfied customers to spread the word rather than spend millions on advertising.
Classic growth story
And it worked. Earnings rose year after year, healthy dividends were paid and the share price soared. In fact, in the five years to January 2014, the shares five-bagged and came close to a price of 20. But we know what happens to popular growth shares almost every time, dont we?
Yes, the shares get pushed to high P/E ratings Telecom Plus shares were on a forward P/E of nearly 40 at their peak and as soon as growth starts to slow, the bandwagon is abandoned and the price slumps. Today, at 829p, the shares have lost more than half their peak value. So with full-year results coming our way on 23 June, are they worth buying now? Or should we stick with stalwarts like BT (LSE: BT-A)(NYSE: BT.US)?
Is bigger better?
BTs recovery has been strong, with it shares gaining 230% over the past five years to 446p, as the firm has recovered from its pension fund crisis and had grown its earnings every year in that period BTs moves into content delivery have been impressively successful, and its pulled off a few prime sports coups along the way.
The next couple of years should be flat, earnings-wise, but were still looking at P/E ratios of around 14 with dividend yields expected to rise to 3.5% by March 2017 with cover at about two times. On those grounds, BT is still looking like a good long-term investment to me.
But Telecom Plus looks even better. Although profit growth is expected to be significantly below market expectations this year, as the company revealed in its April trading update, I cant help thinking we could be poised for a second growth spurt.
Customer number growth is 11% up, with service numbers up around 10%. The full-year dividend should be up by 14% to 40p per share, and though slower profit growth is expected for 2016, the firm is still predicting a further 15% rise in the dividend to 46p.
Grab those dividends
That would give us a dividend yield of a very tasty 5.6% in 2016, with current forecasts suggesting 6.3% a year later. Thats made possible by the Utilities Warehouse multi-utility offerings, and it doesnt need much more dividend cover than the likes of Centrica and National Grid.
And to get that level of income, were only being asked to stump up for shares valued on a P/E multiple of 15.5 for this year, dropping to 13 by 2017, with earnings growth predicted to start rising again. Sound good? It does to me my eyes will be peeled next Tuesday.
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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don’t all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.