And here you thought this year’s stock market was all about Big Tech. Sure Nvidia , the leading artificial intelligence play, has rallied 17% in the third quarter. And Google-parent Alphabet is higher by 14% just since June 30. But little Chicago-based Telephone & Data Systems — the parent of U.S. Cellular, with a market value just 0.18% of Nvidia’s — has far and away scored the biggest stock market gain this quarter, soaring 161%. That’s the largest advance of all the stocks in the S & P 500, S & P Midcap 400 and S & P 600 small-cap indexes — combined. What’s going on? After all, TDS has a market cap of $2.4 billion. (Nvidia’s is $1.23 trillion.) FactSet says only three Wall Street analysts bother to cover it. The rally has been fueled by a reappraisal of TDS’s 83% stake in U.S. Cellular, which it put up for strategic review on Aug. 4 . The other 17% of U.S. Cellular is publicly traded and has risen a similar amount to TDS this quarter. TDS NVDA,GOOGL,.SPX mountain 2023-06-30 Telephone & Data Systems vs Nvidia, Alphabet and S & P 500 since June 30, 2023 To say Telephone & Data Systems is marked by humble beginnings is an understatement. Leroy Carlson founded the company in 1969 when he assembled 10 small, rural Wisconsin phone companies into one. Although it grew to include 39 companies in 17 states by 1974, it didn’t even have 100,000 customers until the following year. U.S. Cellular didn’t come along until 1983, decades before everyone had a cell phone, let alone a smartphone, in their pocket. One Wall Street analyst thinks TDS has a lot more to come. On Aug. 7, soon after the strategic review got underway, JPMorgan’s Philip Cusick put a year-end 2024 price target of $38 on TDS. That’s 77% higher than Thursday’s closing price and more than 380% above where TDS traded before the USM news. Selling U.S. Cellular “seems like the right move,” Cusick wrote. “We have advocated for more than a decade that this company is too small to compete with AT & T, Verizon, T-Mobile U.S., and it looks like with this announcement … the Carlson family may finally agree.” — CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed reporting.
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