Better Buy: Telus or BCE Stock

BCE (TSX:BCE) has a higher dividend yield than Telus (TSX:T). Is it a better buy?

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Telus (TSX:T) and BCE (TSX:BCE) are two of Canada’s most popular telco stocks. One boasts a 7% yield and high dividend growth, while the other has a sky-high 8.9% yield today. Between the two of them, there is a lot of dividend potential here. But which is the better buy?

The case for Telus

A case for buying Telus over BCE can be built on the company’s growth rates. It generally has better growth metrics than BCE does, as the table below shows:

5-year compounded free cash flow growth15.4%1.2%
5-year compounded revenue growth7%0.9%
5-year compounded total asset growth10.7%3.9%
5-year compounded operating income growth0.3%0.29%
Telus vs. BCE: growth

As you can see, Telus has far better growth rates than BCE going by all of the metrics above. It is a faster growing company. Unfortunately, Telus’ win on growth is offset by worse performance on profitability, as I will explore in the next section.

The case for BCE

A case for buying BCE instead of Telus can be built on the fact that BCE is more profitable. As the table below shows, BCE has much higher margins and returns on equity than Telus does.

Gross margin35%44%
Operating margin15%22%
Free cash flow margin3.8%8%
Return on equity (ROE)4.6%10.2%
Telus vs. BCE: profitability

As you can see, Telus has much higher margins than BCE does, across the board. This leaves us with basically a draw between T and BCE so far. In the next section, I’ll evaluate the two stocks’ dividend sustainability, hopefully breaking the tie with that information.

Dividend potential

Both Telus and BCE have very high dividend yields, 7% and 9%, respectively. Both dividends are well above what most investors seek, so I will evaluate the two companies’ dividends primarily in terms of safety.

Telus has a pretty mixed showing on dividend safety. Its earnings-based payout ratio is a sky-high 154%, but its operating cash flows are more than double its dividend payouts (the cash dividend payout ratio is 45%). The free cash flow payout ratio was also comfortably below 100% in 2023’s third and fourth quarters, although it was above 100% in the most recent quarter.

BCE generally scores similarly to Telus on dividend safety. Its earnings-based payout ratio is 126%, which is lower than Telus’ ratio. Its operating cash flow payout ratio is the same as Telus’, while its free cash flow-based payout ratio is higher. Unfortunately, it looks like the dividend safety category is another draw.

The final verdict

Looking at growth, profitability and dividends, I was not able to identify a clear winner between Telus and BCE. It’s for this reason that I think I should mention my personal choice for best Canadian telco: Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B). Rogers Communications has much better free cash flow growth than Telus and BCE, a lower payout ratio than both, and better earnings growth than BCE (its growth rates are similar to those of Telus). It’s also cheaper than both T and BCE, with a mere 12 price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio and a 4.8 price-to-cash flow (P/CF) ratio. On the whole, it is my personal favourite Canadian telco stock.

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 Andrew Button has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Rogers Communications and TELUS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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