Down 27% in a year, this FTSE 100 stock is ringing alarm bells for me
One of the ways I try to identify undervalued stocks is by screening for companies that have fallen significantly in value over the past year. This can flag up firms that the market has pushed below the long-term fair value. However, not all of these represent a good buying opportunity. In fact, I’ve found one FTSE 100 stock from which I’m going to be staying well away.
Concern over recent results
That company is Vodafone Group (LSE:VOD). The multinational telecommunications company has operations in 21 countries directly and partner networks in another 47 countries, highlighting its broad reach around the world.
For several years now, the share price trend has been lower. Over the past five years, the stock is down 58%, with a fall of just under 27% in the past year. Judging its H1 results released last November, there are several reasons I can identify for the fall over the past 12 months.
For a start, net debt is significant. In the six months covered, it increased by €3.9bn to €45.5bn. Contributing factors to this included dividend payments and share buybacks. Even though the debt-to-equity ratio isn’t ridicously high at 1.73x, it certainly isn’t around the figure of 1 that would be more comfortable.
Shareholders naturally would be a bit spooked by the rising debt levels. Yet potential dividend investors also need to be watchful going forward. The current dividend yield of 8.11% is very attractive. Yet in order to reduce the debt pile, a logical step would be to reduce the dividend payments. By retaining more of the future profits to pay off debt, it leaves less to pay out to investors.
More red flags
The business noted in the report that it’s aiming to cut €1bn of costs by 2026. I think this is a good move, as the company can clearly make efficiencies across the sprawling global functions. However, in coming months this could be damaging to the stock, as news headlines come out regarding how costs will be reduced.
For example, a Financial Times article reported that hundreds of job cuts are looming, including in the UK. This hasn’t been confirmed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was indeed the case.
Vodafone also has a raft of changes at the top of management. Last summer, Vodafone Germany changed CEO. Next month, the Group Chief Technology Officer will retire. Granted, these moves weren’t all coordinated. But having multiple big changes within the space of a year doesn’t help business continuity.
My overall take
I might be overreacting to the state of the business. After all, H1 revenue grew by 2% versus the same period last year. Operating profit jumped 12%! It’s clear that the company is still getting the basics right.
Yet I can’t get excited about buying the FTSE 100 stock now. There’s too much negativity around the business and the short-term outlook.
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Jon Smith has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Vodafone Group Public. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.
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