Guggenheim’s Minerd warns of high debt in media and telecom companies

Guggenheim’s Global Chief Investment Officer Scott Minerd believes the media and telecommunications industry could start to feel financial pain in the coming year between rising rates and lopsided balance sheets.

“If I’m correct, we can’t withstand this kind of pressure,” Minerd told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Our work shows that once you get short-term rates to a level of 2.75 percent to 3 percent, the debt service cost for corporate America — which has become so highly levered — will become so great that it will start to impinge on free cash flow for a large percentage of corporations.”

Minerd, who expects the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary further in 2019, said that the rising cost of borrowing could afflict media and telecom communications companies in a disproportionate way.

“The media and telecom industries look pretty overlevered to me,” including AT&T, he said. “I would take a look at [Comcast]. With the Sky acquisition, they’re going to have some pretty good revenue growth for the next two years. That’s why the rating agencies didn’t downgrade them.”

Comcast outbid rival Twenty-First Century Fox in a $39 billion takeover of British broadcaster Sky on last year, entering a much higher bid in a rare three-round auction that set two of America’s largest media companies against one another. Meanwhile, AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner has also spread thin the media giant’s balance sheet.

Minerd said that long-term rates could climb to a range between 3 percent and 3.25 percent over the next 12 months. Guggenheim has $265 billion of assets under management

— Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

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