Growth Play in Wireless Infrastructure

05/10/2010 3:00 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

I almost bought American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT) for Jubak’s Picks on Friday, but the stock was hovering just below its 200-day average and I was afraid that a continuation of the European debt crisis would push the stock below that support level. Instead of more crisis, however, Monday has brought a huge relief rally based on a $1 trillion rescue plan worked out by European Union leaders over the weekend. So I missed what I believe is the local bottom on Friday, but on Monday, with Friday’s risk reduced, the stock is still a great buy, in my opinion.

American Tower is in the business of building towers and then renting space on that tower to wireless companies. The profitability of a tower depends on how many sites on that tower its owner can rent. With the current explosion in wireless data and broadband service, wireless companies need more tower space. Add that to new companies such as MetroPCS (NYSE: PCS) and Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR) building out new networks and demand for space on American Tower’s 27,256 towers is booming. (American Tower’s competitors include Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI) and SBA Communications (Nasdaq: SBAC).

I prefer American Tower because I think its finances are stronger. About 80% of the company’s revenue comes from the United States and Canada, which makes the company play on the relative outperformance of the US economy (in comparison to other developed country economies). Investors get an extra growth boost with American Tower from its presence in the fast-growing wireless markets of Brazil, India, and Mexico. As of the end of 2009 about 6,400 of the company’s towers were in those three markets.

Standard & Poor’s estimates that earnings per share will grow to 94 cents in 2010 from 59 cents a share in 2009. All this makes this a good fit for the growth stock strategy I outlined in this recent post. As of May 10, I’m adding the stock to Jubak’s Picks with a target price of $56 a share by April 2011.

Full disclosure: I will buy shares of American Tower three days after this is posted.

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