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BCE Inc. Easily Beat Q3 Expectations: Is it a Must-Own Stock?

BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)(NYSE:BCE), the largest communications company in Canada, announced better-than-expected third-quarter earnings results before the market opened on November 5, and its stock has responded by rising over 1%. Let’s take a closer look at the results to determine if this could be the start of a sustained rally higher and if we should be long-term buyers of the stock today.

Wireless subscriber growth leads to very strong results

Here’s a summary of BCE’s third-quarter earnings results compared with what analysts had expected and its results in the same period a year ago.

Metric Q3 2015 Actual Q3 2015 Expected Q3 2014 Actual
Adjusted Earnings Per Share $0.93 $0.85 $0.83
Operating Revenues $5.35 billion $5.30 billion $5.20 billion

Source: Financial Times

BCE’s adjusted earnings per share increased 12% and its operating revenues increased 2.9% compared with the third quarter of fiscal 2014. The company’s double-digit percentage increase in earnings per share can be attributed to its adjusted net income increasing 21.9% to $790 million, but this was partially offset by its weighted-average number of diluted shares outstanding increasing 8.6% to 850.1 million.

Its slight increase in revenue can be attributed to its wireless subscriber base increasing 1.8% to 8.18 million and its average revenue per wireless user increasing 6.1% to $65.34, which led to its revenues increasing 9.3% to $1.77 billion in its Bell Wireless segment.

Here’s a quick breakdown of eight other notable statistics from the report compared with the year-ago period:

  1. High-speed Internet subscribers increased 4% to 3.37 million
  2. TV subscribers increased 3.9% to 2.7 million, making it Canada’s largest TV provider
  3. Local telephone subscribers decreased 5.9% to 6.8 million
  4. Revenues decreased 0.6% to $3.03 billion in its Bell Wireline segment
  5. Revenues increased 4.1% to $692 million in its Bell Media segment
  6. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) increased 3.4% to $2.19 billion
  7. Adjusted EBITDA margin expanded 20 basis points to 40.9%
  8. Free cash flow increased 10.4% to $921 million

BCE also announced that it will be maintaining its quarterly dividend of $0.65 per share, and the next payment will come on January 15 to shareholders of record at the close of business on December 15.

What should you do with BCE’s stock today?

It was an outstanding quarter overall for BCE, so I think its stock has responded correctly by moving higher. I also think this could be the start of a sustained rally higher, and I think that it represents a great long-term investment opportunity today.

First, BCE’s stock trades at 17.1 times its median earnings-per-share outlook of $3.33 for fiscal 2015 and 16.2 times analysts’ estimated earnings per share of $3.52 for fiscal 2016, the latter of which is inexpensive compared with its trailing 12-month price-to-earnings multiple of 17 and its industry average multiple of 19.9.

At the very least, I think BCE’s stock could consistently trade at a fair multiple of 18, which would place its shares upwards of $63.25 by the conclusion of fiscal 2016, representing upside of more than 10% from today’s levels, and this does not include reinvested dividends.

Second, BCE pays an annual dividend of $2.60 per share, which gives its stock a very generous 4.6% yield, and this is much higher than the industry average yield of 2.6%. It is also very important to note that it has raised its dividend for seven consecutive years, and its increased amount of free cash flow, including 9% year-over-year growth to $2.08 billion in the first nine months of fiscal 2015, could allow this streak to continue in 2016.

With all of the information above in mind, I think BCE represents one of the best investment opportunities in the market today. All Foolish investors should take a closer look and strongly consider beginning to scale in to long-term positions.

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Fool contributor Joseph Solitro has no position in any stocks mentioned.

NEW! This Stock Could Be Like Buying Amazon In 1997

For only the 5th time in over 14 years, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner just issued a Buy Recommendation on this recent Canadian IPO.

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