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AT&T Stock Is a Failing Media Play and a Fading Communications Buy

InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips AT&T sold its Playdemic mobile gaming company for $1.4 billion. It’s a reminde...

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This story originally appeared on InvestorPlace

InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips

Investorplace.com - InvestorPlace

AT&T (NYSE:T) stock still is dealing with its troubled media divestitures.

A photo of an AT&T office building.
Source: Roman Tiraspolsky / Shutterstock.com

The company announced that it had sold Playdemic, WarnerMedia’s mobile gaming company, to Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) for $1.4 billion.

Playdemic is best known for Golf Clash, an award-winning game with more than 80 million downloads worldwide. The sale is another reminder to long-time owners of T stock what a colossal mistake it made buying WarnerMedia.

AT&T’s loss is Electronic Arts’ gain. 

On the surface, getting $1.4 billion in cash seems like a reasonable price for a piece of the wireless carriers’ business that no longer fits either AT&T or WarnerMedia’s plans. However, Electronic Arts understood this to be the case, likely driving a hard bargain for Playdemic.  

“As mobile continues to be the world’s biggest and fastest growing gaming platform, this acquisition is another step in Electronic Arts strategy of continued leadership in sports and mobile expansion,” EA said in a press release. 

Ok, I’ll admit that last bit was a whole lot of hyperbole typical in press releases, but the reality is that not only is AT&T waving the white flag once more, but it’s also giving Electronic Arts a big leg up in the fight for mobile gamers.

As Statista points out, the global mobile games market in 2021 is worth $100 billion, with the U.S. accounting for approximately 10% of it. Further, Statista points out that the number of mobile gamers in the U.S. will grow by 21% to 181.3 million in 2025.

Gaming Consolidation and T Stock

In early August, EA reported its Q1 2022 results. Its mobile revenue in the first quarter was $218 million, 8% higher than a year earlier and 27% higher than in Q4 2021. Over the trailing four quarters, mobile revenue was $734 million, 2.2% higher than the trailing four quarters ended Q4 2021. 

Given mobile revenue was just 14% of Electronic Arts overall sales in the second quarter, the acquisition will help boost that percentage over the next four quarters.

In WarnerMedia’s defense, it is interested in making games that tie into various franchises such as Lego, etc. On the other hand, Electronic Arts are looking to incorporate Golf Clash’s mechanics into its other mobile games. 

If AT&T hadn’t botched its purchase of WarnerMedia, I might buy that explanation. But, as it stands, this feels more like pouring salt on a massive open wound. 

Is AT&T Isn’t Even the Best Wireless Buy

Beyond the fact AT&T management heaped an excessive amount of debt on a business that already had a tremendous amount before it acquired Time Warner, WarnerMedia’s predecessor, as an investor, you must consider whether T stock is even the best wireless and broadband stock to own. 

And I’m not just talking about the same old comparison between itself and Verizon (NYSE:VZ). That’s been going on for years. 

Do a quick screen of telecom companies listed in the U.S. You get 35 options other than those two. For example, here in Canada, where I live, you have three to choose from in order of market capitalization: BCE (NYSE:BCE), Telus (NYSE:TU), and Rogers Communications (NYSE:RCI). A fourth, Shaw Communications (NYSE:SJR), is looking to merge with Rogers.   

Naturally, many investors focus on the number three player by market cap, T-Mobile US (NASDAQ:TMUS). And that’s perfectly fine. It’s delivering record results at the moment while also taking a 5G leadership position in the U.S.

However, a firm that has my interest is Cable One (NYSE:CABO), a provider of broadband in 24 states and serving more than 1.1 million residential and commercial customers. Graham Holdings (NYSE:GHC) spun it off in July 2015. Donald Graham, the Chairman of Graham Holdings, still owns 8.8% of Cable One. 

In the company’s most recent quarterly report in early August, Cable One reported a 22.4% increase in sales for the quarter to $401.7 million while adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) jumped 30.7% to $213.2 million. 

Over the past five years through Sep. 20, CABO stock has gained 239% compared to -34% for AT&T stock.

Are you prepared to bet on AT&T for another five years? I sure wouldn’t.  

On the date of publication, Will Ashworth did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Will Ashworth has written about investments full-time since 2008. Publications where he’s appeared include InvestorPlace, The Motley Fool Canada, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and several others in both the U.S. and Canada. He particularly enjoys creating model portfolios that stand the test of time. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At the time of this writing Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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