DirecTV shares hit all-time high

Some analysts see further upside for the satellite TV stock

NEW YORK - Shares of DirecTV on Thursday hit their highest level since the company started using its current name. The new high came just hours before the kickoff of the NFL season, which tends to attract subscribers to the satellite TV provider's popular NFL Sunday Ticket service.

It seems that not only a recent NFL Sunday Ticket commercial featuring a mini-giraffe and a "Russian" makes DirecTV investors smile these days.

The company's stock went as high as $40.14 intra-day -- a new 52-week high and its highest level since the firm changed its name from Hughes Electronics to DirecTV in late 2003 -- before closing the day at $39.80, up 0.1%.

At the end of the day, DirecTV had a market capitalization of $34.5 billion, close to the $34.9 billion for Time Warner and the $36.5 billion for former controlling shareholder News Corp., according to Bloomberg. The market cap is also well above satellite TV rival Dish Network's $8.3 billion. DirecTV shares' one-year return now stands at 59%, according to Bloomberg.

Analysts said some of the year's price gain has likely been driven by the company's recent stock buyback activity. They also cited its continued U.S. subscriber growth and the fact that the firm's Latin America business has done well. Plus, the company recently announced modifications to its NFL Sunday Ticket service and started offering it in Web-streaming form to select people who are unable to get its satellite service.

Some on Wall Street see a bit more upside for the stock.

"These guys are geniuses at marketing affordable luxury," said Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan, who has a "buy" rating and $46 price target on DirecTV's stock. Collins Stewart analyst Thomas Eagan has the same recommendation and target on the stock.
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