AT&T Inc. suffered a blow this week when Apple Inc. and Verizon Wireless announced the release of the iPhone 4 on Verizons network.
But despite all the buzz in recent weeks about a Verizon/Apple alliance reflecting an end to AT&Ts exclusive U.S. rights to sell the iPhone the price of AT&Ts stock has done fairly well.
A week ago, AT&T shares hit a 52-week high of $30.10 on the New York Stock Exchange. That was the same day AT&T announced several wireless initiatives, including a plan to introduce 4G mobile services later this year based on LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology.
As of 3:51 p.m. E.S.T. Wednesday, shares of AT&T had climbed 18 cents to $28.09.
Shares of AT&Ts biggest rival, Verizon, also climbed to a one-year high of $37.70 last week, coinciding with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where AT&T, Verizon and others made a number of high-profile announcements.
In a research note today, Deutsche Bank analyst Brett Feldman downgraded Verizons shares from buy” to hold.”
While we expect a strong year for wireless (iPhone, 4G), we believe this is mostly reflected in the stock, which is now at a steep premium to AT&T (T), the S&P 500 and historical levels,” Feldman wrote.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs on Wednesday upgraded Verizon to buy” while downgrading AT&T to neutral.”
In a research note, Goldman Sachs analysts said they anticipate that AT&Ts losses in wireless subscribers will accelerate next year as most AT&T iPhone customer contracts come to an end.
Demand for iPhones, Blackberrys and other popular devices is escalating as U.S. wireless carriers ramp up deployment of high-speed mobile services.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless are leading the pack, serving a combined 186 million wireless subscribers at the end of the third quarter. AT&T trails Verizon Wireless by about 400,000 wireless subscribers.
AT&T and Verizon Communications are not just the two largest U.S. wireless operators they rank as some of the biggest companies in America.
Verizon Communications boasts a market capitalization of roughly $100.4 billion, but that is well under AT&Ts market cap of $166.4 billion. According to The Online Investor, AT&T was the 11th largest company in the United States at the end of the year based on market capitalization.
Apple, which has been AT&Ts iPhone partner for the last three-and-a-half years, is the second largest U.S. company, with a market value of $315.5 billion.
Shares of Apple were trading this afternoon at $343.96.
Analysts are obviously bullish” on Apple, a tech titan that brought home a profit of roughly $14 billion in its 2010 fiscal year.
Fifty-four analysts rate Apples stock a strong buy” while another seven analysts rate it a buy,” according to Zachs Investment Research.