Current Dividend Yield: 5.1%
Performance So Far in 2013: +4%
At this point, we might as well just etch AT&T’s (NYSE:T) name in stone, because it doesn’t look like it’ll move from atop this list anytime soon.
AT&T’s story is the same as Verizon’s (NYSE:VZ): It’s a big ol’ pseudo-utility with a rock-solid balance sheet and stable user base … but one with admittedly limited means of growth in a regulated industry. It’s so big that the Department of Justice knocked down a bid to buy T-Mobile … which then went out and bought up regional carrier MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS).
So for now, it remains No. 2 in American wireless market share, but No. 1 in dividend investors’ hearts. This Dependable Dividend Stock not only has tickled income investors with a substantial 5%-plus dividend, but also has marched out to a nearly 5% share return so far in 2013.
Its fourth-quarter story was similar to Verizon’s. While it gained fewer customers (780,000 contract customers to Verizon’s 2.1 million), it did sell more smartphones, which of course weighed on earnings thanks to heavy subsidies. AT&T still took a $3.8 billion net loss, but adjusted earnings improved 10% to 44 cents per share, which fell just under analyst estimates. Both AT&T and Verizon are benefiting from newer shared-data plans, and like Verizon and FiOS, AT&T is still gaining traction with its U-verse Internet TV service.
Slow and steady wins the race — at least as long as the movement is slowly and steadily ahead. AT&T still is lumbering in the right direction, which means good things for anyone sitting in its stock.