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Is Telstra Corporation Ltd a buy at this share price?

Source: Telstra presentation

Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) has seen its share price slide under $5, and closed at $4.915 today.

In fact, Telstra’s share price is only just above its 52-week low of $4.89 – which it also hit today. That’s a long way off the 52-week high of $5.86, but there are a number of reasons for that.

Concern over Foxtel

As we wrote back in October, Telstra wanted to offload its 50% share in Foxtel, but also wanted its partner News Corp (ASX: NWS) to throw in Fox Sports and then de-merge the Foxtel/Fox Sports group. As you are no doubt aware, Foxtel faces a huge threat from subscription video on demand (SVOD) services like Netflix. The Pay-TV operator has already been forced to cut its subscription rates – but they are still huge compared to a ~$10 a month subscription to Netflix.

NBN earnings hole

While Telstra agreed to hand over its copper network to the NBN in exchange for $11.5 billion, the demise of this hugely profitable business and the completion of the NBN in around 2020 will leave an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) hole of between $2 and $3 billion annually.

Vodafone is turning around

Telstra still holds the dominant market share in both fixed broadband and mobile subscribers compared to Optus and Vodafone. But both companies are ramping up their competition, in particular, Vodafone, which saw its market share crumble after a series of network outages in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Rising competition

Telstra also faces better competition in the form of TPG Telecom Ltd (ASX: TPM) and Vocus Communications Limited (ASX: VOC) now that they have acquired smaller competitors and gained the scale to compete on an even footing with Telstra.

Struggling to find growth

Despite its many irons in the fire in eHealth, home automation, network application services (NAS) to name but a few, they still generate relatively low levels of revenues and earnings. Sales revenue was up just 1.9% in the 2016 financial year, and somehow the company needs to find more and better ways of generating income.

Foolish takeaway

At the current share price, Telstra is trading on a P/E of 15.3x and paying a fully franked dividend yield of 6.3%. Grossed up that’s 9%, not a bad return, and that leaves just 1% growth needed to generate a 10% return before tax. The problem is that if the telco faces lower earnings ahead, that dividend is going to get cut. Buyer beware.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in TPG Telecom and Vocus Communications. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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