Dish Networks’ spectrum holdings are undervalued by roughly 45 percent, according to Jeffries’ analysts.
Jeffries sees an M&A transaction as a positive possible avenue, with many potential suitors.
“As we see it, there are many suitors that would make sense, and we see Dish’s spectrum as the most valuable and easily deployable spectrum available for the foreseeable future,” the analysts wrote. “Given the move to unlimited data, and the exploding use of video streaming, we see Dish as uniquely positioned to supply much needed spectrum in the coming years.”
It is yet to be seen how Dish will forge ahead with its wireless strategy, though the company posted a net loss of 196,000 pay TV customers in a challenging pay TV market in the second quarter of 2017.
Jeffries Analyst Mike McCormack said at the time that he expects Dish will remain focused on its wireless strategy, with “industry structure and IoT build plans highlighted.”
In his recent note to investors McCormack indicated that recent reports of active T-Mobile-Sprint merger talks could benefit Dish in multiple ways.
“First, a more potent third player with the strongest spectrum position could push either AT&T or Verizon to look at Dish, or its spectrum, in order to keep pace,” he wrote. “Secondly, Dish could be viewed as a potential 3rd party in discussions between Sprint and T-Mobile, much like it interjected itself into the Sprint-Clearwire negotiations.”
To meet FCC requirements, Dish must build out 70 percent of its covered POPs by March 2020, which McCormack said gives the company “ample time” to explore its options while laying the groundwork for a potential build of its own. He noted Dish could build a narrowband IoT network “at a relatively low cost.”
The analysts also believe Dish could enter into a “sweetheart deal” with an incumbent carrier to meet its buildout requirement, though analysts note that would be a “worst case scenario.” Additionally, Dish could choose the “nuclear option” of auctioning off part of the spectrum with bidders agreeing to a deployment deadline.
“Dish CEO Charlie Ergen has consistently indicated that an ideal build would leverage a partner that was also constructing their network in order to benefit from deployment synergies,” McCormack wrote. “With AT&T planning to touch all of its towers in the coming 18-24 months as part of its FirstNet contract, we believe they would make an ideal partner; Dish management also noted that any build would need to begin by late 2018.”