With June 23 rapidly approaching, investors around the world are preparing their portfolios for the worst.
The main threat investors seem to be guarding themselves against is uncertainty. Both the ‘leave’ and the ‘remain’ camps acknowledge that if the UK decides to leave the European Union, there will be at least two years of uncertainty, as lawmakers thrash out the details of the divorce.
During times of uncertainty, defensive stocks tend to prevail, which is why I believe investors should look to Sky (LSE: SKY) and Vodafone (LSE: VOD) to protect against Brexit risks.
Both Sky and Vodafone have extensive European operations. As a result, it’s likely both companies will suffer some operational issues following a ‘leave’ vote. However, over the long-term these two multimedia giants should be able to continue to grow within both the UK and Europe and are unlikely to be held back by a Brexit.
Take Vodafone for example. For the year ended 31 March 2016, Vodafone reported organic group revenue growth of 2.3%. Most of this growth came from outside the company’s European area of operations. Vodafone’s service revenue from its African, Middle Eastern and Asia-Pacific operations grew at 6.9% year-on-year. European service revenue shrank by 0.6% on an organic basis for the period and UK service revenue contracted by 0.3% for the period.
Meanwhile, Sky is chasing its dream to become Europe’s premier entertainment company. During the third quarter of the company’s financial year (calendar Q1) the group’s German division, Sky Deutschland reported its first ever operating profit, while Sky’s Italian division achieved the highest quarterly customer growth in four years, adding 34,000 new retail customers and 49,000 new products. In the UK, for the nine months ended 31 March 2016, operating profit increased by an impressive 15% to £1.2bn.
On the earnings front, City analysts believe that Vodafone is set to return to growth this year for the first time in five years. Indeed, analysts have pencilled in earnings per share growth of 24% for the year ending 31 March 2017 and earnings growth of 17% is expected for the year after. Based on these figures, Vodafone currently trades at a 2017 P/E of 34.2 and supports a dividend yield of 5.3%.
Sky’s earnings per share are expected to jump by 10% this year. Based on these forecasts the company is trading at a forward PE of 13.7 and the shares support a dividend yield of 3.0%.
One to avoid?
Sky and Vodafone may be the perfect defensive stocks to hold through Brexit uncertainty, but what about Talktalk Telecom (LSE: TALK)?
Well, following last year’s hack attack investors dumped shares in Talktalk fearing a customer exodus so far, however, this exodus has failed to materialise and City analysts still expect the company top report earnings growth of 72% for the year ending 31 March 2017. Based on City forecasts the company’s shares are trading at a forward P/E of 14.9, they also support a yield of 6.8% at current prices. This yield may be too hard for some investors to pass up, but considering Talktalk’s record of past mistakes, it might be wise to avoid the company as there are better opportunities out there.