Don’t Sweat Verizon’s Big Debt Raise

by Marc Bastow | September 16, 2013 10:55 am

Earlier this month, telecom giant Verizon (VZ[1]) announced an agreement to buy British mobile operator Vodafone’s (VOD[2]) 45% interest in their partnership, Verizon Wireless.

The buyout price for the stake was $130 billion, including around $60 billion in cash. Where to get the money? A record-breaking $49 billion five-part offering of VZ bonds, covering tranches up 30 years. The offering, closed on Sept. 12, was a huge hit[3], with investors driving up prices (and conversely lowering yields).

You can argue about the “winners and losers”[4] in this deal, but amid a big deal that just piled on a huge amount of debt onto VZ’s balance sheet, many of us holding VZ in retirement portfolios are wondering, “Is my dividend in danger?”

The answer: Probably not.

The interest costs for Verizon from the debt will come in at just more than $2.4 billion annually, based on the tranches, which range from three-year to 30-year terms.

So why shouldn’t income investors get worked up? Because VZ’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless is worth billions more.

The Wall Street Journal reported for fiscal 2012, Verizon booked net income of $10.6 billion, but $9.7 billion of that went to Vodafone, while VZ booked a bottom line of $875 million. That’s all going to Verizon now.

More recently, in June, Verizon had to forgo $3.15 billion in the form of a partnership interest dividend distribution[5] to Vodafone — that alone would appear to be enough to cover the financing charges from the bond offering.

Bottom Line

Verizon wasn’t going to do anything that jeopardized its status as a high-yielding dividend stock. Granted, I’ve made the point that Verizon is a pretty paltry dividend grower[6], but few people can find fault with a rock-solid yield north of 4% funded by a member of a virtual duopoly.

I know I don’t plan on selling my shares anytime soon.

Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at As of this writing, he was long VZ.

  1. VZ:
  2. VOD:
  3. was a huge hit:
  4. argue about the “winners and losers”:
  5. dividend distribution:
  6. paltry dividend grower:

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