Investing veterans who have been through a few market cycles understand that opportunities come and go. They also know that looking for value stocks among the dividend-payers is a strategy that can help ease the pain from the lows that follow the highs.
While much of the market is riding high on the current long upswing, buying opportunities remain for those seasoned investors able to recognize the stocks which, due to unusual circumstances, might be getting mispriced by the market today. Read on to find out why Omega Healthcare Investors (NYSE:OHI), Seagate Technology (NASDAQ:STX), and Ford (NYSE:F) are dividend stocks that weathered pros should appreciate.
A healthcare REIT with the right answers
Keith Speights (Omega Healthcare Investors): I like the definition of expert that is attributed to Levi Strauss: "An expert knows all the answers -- if you ask the right questions." With this definition in mind, the right questions to ask an expert investor about dividend stocks include which ones have the highest yields, which have the best ability to continue paying dividends, and which have the best growth prospects. I suspect most expert investors would put Omega Healthcare Investors in the list of dividend stocks that rank highly all of in these categories.
Omega Healthcare Investors is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that specializes in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), but also owns assisted-living facilities (ALFs), independent living facilities, and rehabilitation and acute-care facilities.
Omega's dividend yield currently stands at 8.05%. You don't have to be an expert investor to like that kind of yield. The company has increased its dividend for 13 consecutive years and for 19 consecutive quarters.
What about Omega's ability to keep the dividends flowing? The company reported funds from operations (FFO) of $660 million last year and earnings of $383 million. Its dividend payments for the year totaled a little over $453 million. While investors prefer earnings to be higher than dividends paid, Omega's strong FFO indicates that the dividend should be pretty safe. (REITs, of course, are required to pay out at least 90% of earnings as dividends annually.)
Wall Street analysts project that Omega Healthcare Investors will grow earnings by almost 16% annually over the next five years. That seems attainable. Over the longer run, the company should benefit significantly from rapid growth of the elderly demographic in the U.S. population. In my view, Omega checks off all the boxes for expert investors looking for solid dividend stocks.
High capacity for yield
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Seagate Technology): Seagate's yield is 5.9%, or about triple the average for the broader market. A gap like that is usually a good sign that investors need to proceed with caution.
To be sure, the hard drive specialist has been going through a brutal period for its business. Revenue fell 19% last year as volumes and prices both slumped under the weight of declining demand for PCs. Operating income took an even sharper decline, diving to $445 million in fiscal 2016 from over $2 billion in the prior year.
Momentum has been shifting for the better lately, though. Revenue ticked higher by 3% last quarter as profitability rebounded nicely from the prior year. CEO Steve Luczo and his executive team say they're seeing signs that the business is stabilizing. They also believe their lower cost structure and improved portfolio of high-capacity drives should drive stable growth over the coming years.
Investors who agree will have to take on the extra risk of a dividend that consumed far more than net income in the last fiscal year. The payout currently takes up an uncomfortable 85% of earnings, too. Yet Seagate's payout coverage looks better when viewed through the lens of its healthy cash flow. The company has generated $1.7 billion of operating cash over the past nine months, easily enough to cover its commitment to pay out $374 million in dividends.
Driving past the wreckage
Rich Duprey (Ford): Hero to goat could be the way to best describe Ford, which went from automotive industry darling to car wreck in the span of a few short years. Despite posting back-to-back years of record profits, the carmaker's stock has run off the road due to investor fears that it's in the slow lane when it comes to the innovations that will drive the industry into the future.
Ford's stock is down 15% from 12 months ago, and it's lost a fifth of its value after hitting a 52-week high of almost $14 a share as concern of its having to tailgate archrival General Motors in the field of electric cars.
But give the automaker credit where it's due: It's board quickly realized the man behind the wheel wasn't the right one to steer the company in the directions it need to go, and ousted him in favor of Jim Hackett. The new CEO says not only will Ford be profitable, it will also be nimble enough to respond to changing industry conditions and fortunes -- even if that means jettisoning ideas once thought to have merit. Hackett could provide the same kind of leadership that Alan Mulally once did, and that the board of directors felt that the recently removed Mark Fields did not.
All of this is good news for income-seeking investors. While there are some concerns that auto industry is about to run into some heavy traffic with demand for new cars poised to decline and car-buyer finances increasingly look shakier, Ford's discounted share price and solid dividend of $0.60 per share that's currently yielding 5.4% should give expert investors with a nose for value an opportunity to benefit.
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