Dividend stocks are everywhere, but many just downright stink. In some cases, the business model is in serious jeopardy, or the dividend itself isn't sustainable. In others, the dividend is so low it's not even worth the paper your dividend check is printed on. A solid dividend strikes the right balance of growth, value, and sustainability.
Today, and one day each week for the rest of the year, we're going to look at one dividend-paying company that you can put in your portfolio for the long term without too much concern. This isn't to say these stocks don't share the same macro risks that other companies have, but they are a step above your common grade of dividend stock. See last week's selection.
This week, I'm dipping my toes into the very unpopular coal sector to dig up a gem in Alliance Resource Partners (Nasdaq: ARLP ) .
If you had any question about how unpopular coal is as an investment right now, the next time a friend asks you what stocks are on your Watchlist, tell him or her "coal companies" and have a stopwatch ready so you can time how quickly they run 500 feet in the other direction.
Behind weak coal prices and a dramatic increase in demand are near-decade lows in natural gas prices. As an abundant and cleaner-burning energy alternative, electric utilities are taking the time now to reduce their dependence on coal and transforming their facilities to run on natural gas. In addition, more utilities and businesses are turning toward renewable energy sources to meet their electric demands, including Waste Management (NYSE: WM ) which has ambitious plans to utilize methane from its landfills and the garbage itself to power well over 1 million homes.
To top this off, the majority of coal companies have reduced their output and laid off workers, or closed mines completely in response to the decline in demand and prices. CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX ) , Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR ) , and Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI ) have all scaled back production in order to reduce expenses. CONSOL's cutbacks actually involved trimming its workweek back to just five days in addition to cutting production.
A treasure in your stocking
Recently, coal has been every bit the lump in your stocking that you parents described you'd get from Santa if you were bad. However, I see this lump as a treasure trove if you're talking about Alliance Resource Partners.
You see, Alliance Resource Partners is set up differently from the rest of the sector. As a master limited partnership it gets favorable tax status allowing it to keep much more of its income and divvy out premium dividends to its shareholders.
The biggest difference between Alliance Resource and the rest of the coal sector is that its long-term contracts drive its growth. Most coal companies have their production contracted out within a six-to-12 month range and are highly exposed to spot coal prices. Alliance Resource, on the other hand, noted in July that it has 36.1 million, 29.3 million, and 22.8 million tons of coal committed through contracts in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively. Furthermore, only 1 million tons in 2013, and 2.9 million tons in 2014 and 2015 are exposed to current market prices. The company has also been working on coal commitments of 27 million tons through 2018, plus or minus 10%, according to Alliance Resource's quarterly report.
With little exposure to volatile pricing, a favorable tax structure, and guaranteed cash flow, Alliance Resource is the clear top play in coal.
You haven't seen anything yet!
Now let's have a look at why Alliance Resource really is the go-to coal company -- its dividend.
Not only does Alliance Resource Partners have a ridiculously high projected yield of 7.1% in a sector that has seen Patriot Coal go bankrupt and countless other producers slashing production, but it's growing its dividend on a quarterly basis! How does 17 consecutive quarterly dividend increases sound; and I'm not talking about those fractions of a cent increases either!
That, my friends, is a vision of beauty if you're an income-seeking investor. Over past decade, Alliance Resource has grown its dividend by an average of 15.5% thanks, in part, to 11-straight years of record profits. According to Alliance Resource's management, the company remains on track to report another year of record profits in 2012.
Dirty mouth? Forget Orbitz gum and consider giving Alliance Resource Partners a closer look. With higher-than-market prices locked in for the majority of its production for many years to come and trading at just eight times forward earnings, there's not much more you could ask for from the coal sector.
If you're craving even more dividend ideas, I invite you to download a copy of our latest special report, "Secure Your Future With 9 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks," which is loaded with income-producing companies hand-selected by our top analysts. Best of all, this report is free, so don't miss out!