AT&T (NYSE:T) shareholders have endured a 15% loss from investing in the stock five years ago

·3 min read

Ideally, your overall portfolio should beat the market average. But even the best stock picker will only win with some selections. At this point some shareholders may be questioning their investment in AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), since the last five years saw the share price fall 37%. The falls have accelerated recently, with the share price down 11% in the last three months. This could be related to the recent financial results - you can catch up on the most recent data by reading our company report.

With that in mind, it's worth seeing if the company's underlying fundamentals have been the driver of long term performance, or if there are some discrepancies.

See our latest analysis for AT&T

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.

During the five years over which the share price declined, AT&T's earnings per share (EPS) dropped by 44% each year. This fall in the EPS is worse than the 9% compound annual share price fall. So the market may previously have expected a drop, or else it expects the situation will improve. The high P/E ratio of 183.22 suggests that shareholders believe earnings will grow in the years ahead.

The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

It's good to see that there was some significant insider buying in the last three months. That's a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on AT&T's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of AT&T, it has a TSR of -15% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

Investors in AT&T had a tough year, with a total loss of 10% (including dividends), against a market gain of about 23%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 3% per year over five years. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Case in point: We've spotted 4 warning signs for AT&T you should be aware of.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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