Take Advantage of the Bear Market and Buy Telus Corporation

Telus Corporation (TSX:T)(NYSE:TU) shares are flirting with lows last seen in 2014. Long-term dividend investors should practically be salivating at the opportunity.

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As the old adage goes, investors need to buy low and sell high. And yet, many of us have problems doing just that. Why?

The biggest reason might be the media coverage that stock market corrections get. When stocks have a losing streak of a few days–like what happened over the first four days of trading in 2016–business television and newspaper headlines are filled with ominous declarations with words like “plunge,” “meltdown,” and “crash” appearing often. Who wants to buy when it seems like everybody is telling you stocks will go lower?

Then investors look at their brokerage statements and see they’re now poorer than they were a month ago. Doubt starts to creep in, and suddenly it’s very easy to convince yourself to stick your cash somewhere much safer than the stock market. Naturally, by the time these scared investors start thinking about putting money back in the market, the buying opportunity is over and the market is much higher.

Don’t be that investor. Today is a great buying opportunity for many of Canada’s finest companies. Let’s take a closer look at one I think would look good in just about everyone’s portfolio: Telus Corporation (TSX:T)(NYSE:TU).

Two-year lows

A couple of different factors have hit Telus shares hard over the last few months.

The first was general market sentiment. Earlier in the year commodity stocks really started to head lower, so investors responded by moving into higher-quality names, such as Telus. But after shares of western Canada’s largest telecom peaked in July at nearly $45 each, they started falling with the rest of the market. Quality was no longer enough.

The other big event was Shaw Communications announcing it was going to acquire Wind Mobile back in mid-December. Investors sent Telus shares reeling on the news, convinced a Shaw-owned Wind would engage in price wars to gain market share, causing everyone’s wireless margins to suffer.

And now general market weakness has sent Telus shares even lower. As I write this, shares trade hands at $37.60 on the TSX, which is very close to lows set by the company in early 2014. And yet Telus has grown earnings substantially since 2013. In 2013 it earned $2.01 per share and increased that to $2.31 per share in 2014. If it can meet analyst expectations for the year, it’ll earn $2.51 per share in 2015.

When Telus last traded at current levels, its P/E ratio approached 19. If it can meet analysts’ estimates and earn $2.51 in 2015, it’ll trade at just 15 times earnings.

Solid growth

The days of double-digit growth from any of Canada’s big wireless companies is over. Still, Telus has done a nice job growing revenue at a steady pace of between 3-5% annually.

Management has been doing this in a number of ways. Telus is steadily expanding its television service, taking customers away from Shaw with a combination of competitive prices and perks for consumers who sign up for two- and three-year contracts. It’s a similar strategy to what has worked well in wireless.

Telus has also done a great job retaining wireless customers. Its customer service reps are some of the best in the business after management realized investing in front-line employees would result in higher customer satisfaction. It also embraced a lower-cost model, funneling price-sensitive customers to subsidiaries like Koodo and Public Mobile.

Earnings growth has been solid as well. I already mentioned the growth between 2013 and 2015, and the trend looks to continue in 2016. Analysts estimate that Telus will earn $2.76 per share in 2016, putting shares at a forward multiple of just 13.6.

A great dividend

It isn’t very often that investors get a stock yielding 4.7% with great dividend growth.

Over the last five years, Telus has hiked its quarterly payout an impressive 11 times. The dividend started in 2011 at $0.26 per share and is currently $0.44 per share quarterly. With a payout ratio of 70% of projected 2015 earnings, there’s still room for Telus to raise the payout, especially if overall earnings keep ticking higher.

It isn’t often that a blue chip like Telus falls almost 20%. The last time this happened the following year was very good for shareholders. I can’t promise that for 2016, but I am pretty confident saying Telus should be a great long-term hold.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

Fool contributor Nelson Smith owns Shaw Communications preferred shares.

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