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KT Earnings: Underlying Profit in Line; Valuation Up to USD 18.00 From USD 17.20 on Currency

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We increase our fair value estimate for KT KT to USD 18 per ADR following its third-quarter 2023 result, which was in line with our estimates on an underlying basis, despite the poor headline profit. Third-quarter service revenue increased by 3.7% year on year with reported operating income declining by 29% year on year. However, this decline in operating income was largely due to wage negotiations concluded earlier in 2023 than 2022, resulting in around KRW 140 billion of costs that were included in fourth-quarter 2022 also being included in third-quarter 2023. There were also approximately KRW 50 billion of “content smoothing costs” included this quarter. These should normalize in the fourth quarter and excluding the impact of these, third-quarter operating profit would have increased by around 13.1%, despite KT being hit by the same rising energy costs that caused competitor LG U+ to report a decline in operating profit.

We made only minor changes to our forecasts and our fair value estimate for KT increases to USD 18.00 from USD 17.20 previously, mainly on a strengthening South Korean won. Our forecasts incorporate consolidated operating earnings growing at only around 3% per year over the next five years, but despite this the stock trades at a price/fair value estimate of around 0.7 times and we believe it is undervalued. We believe that stronger revenue and earnings growth may provide catalysts for share price improvement. At the current price, KT trades on a price/earnings ratio of 8 times and a dividend yield of 6.2%, which we believe is attractive compared with many international telecom services companies trading at midteen price/earnings multiples.

The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

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About the Author

Dan Baker

Senior Equity Analyst
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Dan Baker is a senior equity analyst for Morningstar Asia Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Morningstar, Inc. He covers Asian telecommunications and technology companies and is a member of the Moat Committee.

Before joining Morningstar in 2014, he had 10 years’ experience as an equity analyst with Merrill Lynch and Mirae Asset Securities and two years in equity sales with RBS. He also worked for eight years in the telecommunications industry as an engineer with Ericsson and a telecom industry consultant with Ovum.

Baker holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Melbourne, a diploma in applied finance and investment from the Securities Institute of Australia, and a master’s degree in accounting from Curtin University.

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