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AT&T (T) Shelves Stock Buyback Plan Amid Coronavirus Scare

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AT&T Inc. T recently revealed in a regulatory filing that it is withdrawing plans to repurchase $4 billion worth of stock due to the coronavirus pandemic. The news seemed to press the panic button as share prices moved down 8.7% to close at $28.45, as of Mar 20, 2020.

Share Repurchase Program

AT&T was scheduled to retire $4 billion worth of stock under two accelerated share repurchase agreements. The company intended to retire about 250 million shares through April 2020. However, AT&T has now decided to cancel this stock buyback program due to the severity of the virus outbreak. The evolving nature of the contagious disease and its grave impact on the economy have forced the company to reconsider the buyback plan as it is yet to fathom the impact on its business.

Pro-Active Steps

AT&T has administered necessary precautionary steps within the organization for the welfare of its employees and to pre-empt the spread of the contagious disease. In order to reduce the retail store footprint, the company has decided to operate a bare minimum number of stores to serve first responders, healthcare workers, government users and customers. To this effect, AT&T will keep one retail store open within the 20-mile radius in the urban and suburban areas, increasing it to a 30-mile radius for rural areas.

For the safety and wellbeing of its 240,000 employees, AT&T has decided to double the hours for paid, excused time off to up to a total of 160 hours for those who are unable to resume their professional obligations due to protective measures. While offering ‘work from home’ options to employees who don’t require on-site presence, AT&T has established six new “command centers” to cater to higher broadband demand for homes, new circuits and unified communication services.

Additional Free Video Content

AT&T is further offering some additional TV shows and video content for free as more and more people are spending their time in the confinement of their houses. The company is also focusing on streaming services like AT&T TV and the soon-to-be-launched HBO Max. Powered by Android TV set-top box, AT&T TV offers a plethora of live TV channels, 500 hours of DVR storage space and 40,000 on-demand titles that can be streamed on a mobile device anywhere in the country. This is likely to enable users to either stream their favorite content on-the-go or record innumerable shows to watch later.

HBO Max will offer about 10,000 hours of premium content, leveraging an extensive collection of exclusive original programs and the most sought-after shows from WarnerMedia’s vast portfolio of beloved brands and libraries. With an unrivaled bouquet of premium and exclusive content for an impressive direct-to-consumer experience across age groups, HBO Max will likely equip AT&T to play catch-up with avant-garde media firms.

This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock has lost 7.5% over the past year compared with the industry’s decline of 9.5%.

Key Picks

Some better-ranked stocks in the broader industry are Motorola Solutions, Inc. (MSI - Free Report) , Viasat Inc. VSAT and Qualcomm Incorporated QCOM, each carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.  

Motorola has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 8.5%. It delivered a positive earnings surprise of 6.6%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.

Viasat surpassed earnings estimates in the trailing four quarters, the average positive surprise being 402%.

Qualcomm has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 18.9%. It delivered a positive earnings surprise of 10%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.

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