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Why I think now could be the time to buy BT

The BT (LSE: BT.A) share price has been in freefall over the past few weeks. Following these declines, the stock is now trading at one of its lowest levels in recent history.

As such, now could be an excellent time for investors to snap up a share in this national champion.

BT shares on offer?

In the past, I’ve regularly advised investors to stay away from BT stock.

And the pressures I’ve cited before haven’t disappeared. The company is still struggling under a huge debt load, fighting with regulators, and struggling to keep up with the competition.

However, after recent declines, it looks as if all of these pressures are now priced into the share price.

At the time of writing, the stock is trading at a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 5.2. Meanwhile, the company’s dividend yield stands at 12.3%.

While it is highly likely that the firm will have to slash this distribution as it elevates capital spending and debt repayments, even a 50% cut would leave the stock with a market-beating 6% dividend yield.

Too cheap to pass up?

Usually, companies trading at mid-single-digit P/Es have something fundamentally wrong with their business models. While BT does have its problems, the company remains the UK’s largest telecoms corporation. This isn’t going to change any time soon.

Millions of customers pay the company every day to use its services. In many regions, BT is the only operator, so customers have no choice.

That suggests that the company’s long-term earnings potential is nowhere near as bad as the market is implying. Indeed, even if the coronavirus outbreak leads to global economic collapse, there will still be tens of millions of calls made every day on BT’s networks.

Therefore, the company looks exceptionally well placed to weather the current economic storm and come out the other side relatively unscathed.

Upside potential

For the past five years, the BT share price has commanded a valuation multiple of around 10 times earnings.

This suggests that when market sentiment improves, the stock could be worth 90% more than current levels. This includes the 12.3% dividend yield, which suggests investors could be in line for a return of more than 100%.

That being said, it’s impossible to say, at this stage, when market sentiment will recover. So, it could take some time for investors to earn this return.

Nonetheless, BT shareholders can rest safe in the knowledge that the group’s millions of customers are all paying a monthly fee to get access to BT’s networks.

These monthly subscriptions should continue to provide the business with enough cash flow to maintain its borrowing obligations and dividend for the foreseeable future. That should help BT avoid the worst-case scenario of bankruptcy. Some of the company’s peers may not be so lucky.

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Rupert Hargreaves has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.