Sector offers >6% yield, 2Q11 Review

M1’s higher gearing and weak free cash flow may limit earnings payout to 80%, below last year’s 100%.

SingTel continues to gain mobile revenue share while StarHub is gaining non-mobile subscribers despite absence of English Premier League rights.

StarHub is our top pick, trading at 7.4% yield (fixed 20 Scts DPS) versus 6% for M1 & SingTel.

A quick recap of 2Q2011 results. M1 & StarHub reported inline earnings while SingTel’s earnings were 5% below our expectations. SingTel disappointed on lower than expected earnings contribution from Bharti and Optus. Bharti was hit by 3G rollout costs and higher tax rate in India. Optus, on the other hand, witnessed higher mobile competition as smaller player VHA joined market share battle with incumbent Telstra.

StarHub (Buy, TP: S$3.05) is our top pick. StarHub’s free cash flow is likely to be ~120% of FY11F earnings, as the company pays minimal cash tax due to its deferred tax assets. StarHub has a fixed dividend policy of 5 Scts per quarter for FY11F. We believe this will be maintained in the coming years.

StarHub impressed in the non-mobile segment. Despite loss of EPL and ESPN rights, StarHub continued to gain pay TV subscribers with sequentially stable ARPU. Moderate subscriber growth in the broadband segment and stable ARPU also demonstrated solid execution.

M1 (Hold, TP: S$2.60) may not gear up significantly above its peers. At the end of 2Q11, M1 had net debt to annualized EBITDA of 1.1x versus 0.7x for StarHub and SingTel each as shown in the chart on the side. M1’s gearing spiked from borrowing S$81m to partly pay for FY10 dividends, as its free cash flow was very weak. Even FY11F free cash flow may be ~70% of FY11F earnings due to fair value accounting for handsets. In our view, investor should expect 80% earnings payout ratio.

SingTel (Hold, TP: S$3.20) continued to gain mobile revenue share in Singapore. This was driven by more attractive lineup of handsets and devices offered slightly ahead of peers, focus on pushing data SIM cards by bundling them with fixed broadband service and attractive discounts to subscribers on re-contracting. Peers do not emulate these tactics lest market should become more competitive.

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