Shares in Talktalk Telecom (LSE: TALK) jumped by as much as 12.5% in early trading today after the company hiked its dividend, instead of cutting it as many analysts had expected.
Talktalks dividend hike came alongside the companys first-half results, which revealed that the group had suffered a pre-tax loss of 8m in the six months to September, compared to a profit of 20m in the same period last year.
However, revenue rose 5.9% year-on-year during the second quarter following a 4.7% increase for Q1. A significant increase in operating costs increased Talktalks cost base by 28m to 245m, andthese higher costs pushed the group into a loss for the period.
Costly cyber attack
Talktalks first-half results struck a relatively upbeat tone, despite the significant and sustained cyber attack the company suffered during October.
Indeed, the company announced alongside its first-half results that the attack would cost the group 30m to 35m. However, management went on to state in the results release that the company is confident it can deliver full year results in line with market expectations.
Talktalks chief executive Dido Harding said:
We have delivered H1 results in line with our plan and revenue growth accelerated strongly through the second quarter. We have a robust plan to deliver a significant step-up in profits in H2, underpinned by the benefits of our transformation programme coming through strongly.
To help mitigate the effect of the attack, Talktalk is offering customers a free upgrade, which it hopes will convince customers to stay with the group. And to appease shareholders, Talktalk raised its interim dividend by 15% to 5.29p, up from 4.6p in the same period last year.
Its difficult to interpret todays trading update from Talktalk. On one hand, the company seems to be struggling. Costs are rising, and the full fallout from the cyber attack is not yet known.
But on the other hand, Talktalks management seems to believe that the company is still on track to meet full year targets. City forecasts are calling for Talktalk to report a pre-tax profit of 150m and earnings per share of 13.8p for the year ending 31 March 2016.
As its not yet known how much damage the hack attack has done to Talktalks reputation, it looks as if Talktalks management is setting the company up to disappoint further down the road. It seems silly for management to state that the company is on-track to meet full-year forecasts after the events of the last few months.
Time to buy
So is it time to buy Talktalks shares following todays upbeat trading? It might be wise to avoid the company. Until the full effect of the cyber attack on customer numbers is known, it will be difficult to assess Talktalks prospects.
Moreover, the companys shares currently trade at a forward P/E of 17.1, which seems relativelyexpensive for a company thats facing such an uncertain future. And while Talktalks dividend yield now stands at 6.4%, dividend hunters might be better off looking elsewhere for income.
To help you uncover the market’stop income stocks, then why not check out The Motley Fool’snew income report double pack.
For a limited time only we’ve bundled together our top income report,”How To Create Dividends For Life“, with a report entitled,”My 5 Golden Rules for Building a Dividend Portfolio”.
Together, the two reports teach you everything you need to know to build a buy and forget dividend portfolio.
Justclick hereto download the free report double pack today!