Although high-yield dividend stocks tend to be extremely risky investing vehicles, they can, on occasion, generate outstanding returns on capital. Therefore, aggressive investors on the hunt for exceptional capital appreciation opportunities, and that are comfortable with elevated levels of risk, may want to consider adding a high-yield stock or two to their portfolio.
With this theme in mind, we asked three of our investors which high-yield dividend stocks they think might be good picks for risk-tolerant investors. They suggested AstraZeneca plc (AZN -0.70%), GameStop (GME -5.13%), and Las Vegas Sands (LVS -2.12%). Read on to find out why these three high-yield dividend plays may be worth the risk right now.
Down but not out
George Budwell (AstraZeneca plc): British pharma giant AstraZeneca plc took a beating last month after its immunotherapy cocktail of Imfinzi (durvalumab) and tremelimumab failed to slow disease progression, compared to standard chemotherapy, in lung cancer patients participating in a late-stage trial known as Mystic. As a result, the drugmaker's annualized yield has since ballooned to a whopping 6.28% -- that is, assuming management won't take a hatchet to the company's exceedingly rich dividend program in the coming months.
Unfortunately, management may have little choice in the matter. With a bloated payout ratio of 91.8% at present and a flat top-line heading into 2018, Astra's juicy yield is far from safe after all. Having said that, the company doesn't exactly appear to be in a hurry to modify its dividend policy in the wake of this clinical setback. Rather, Astra seems content to wait on the release of Mystic's overall survival data sometime during the first half of 2018 before making any major changes to its shareholder rewards program.
Why is Imfinzi such a critical piece of the puzzle? The big picture issue is that even though Astra has built a fairly impressive portfolio of novel cancer medicines over the past few years, the company still lacks a bona fide franchise-level oncology drug that can deliver top notch levels of growth. Imfinzi, through its presumed breakthrough in the frontline cancer setting, was supposed to be this drug. But with Imfinzi's frontline lung cancer indication hanging in the balance, Astra may need to rethink its capital allocation strategy, and that isn't good news for dividend investors.
All told, Astra can still turn things around with Mystic's overall survival data next year, but that rosy scenario is far from a sure thing -- or perhaps even likely. That's why this high-yield dividend stock is arguably only suited for ultra-aggressive investors that are comfortable with hefty doses of risk.
A retail transformation story
Keith Noonan (GameStop): Trading at 6.5 times forward earnings, a quarter of forward sales, and packing a roughly 7% dividend yield, GameStop might not look like the type of stock that requires big risk tolerance. While many of the company's valuation metrics and a sizable yield point to a relatively inexpensive stock, staking a long-term position in the company is essentially betting that it will be successful in dramatically reworking its business model.
Since its founding, GameStop's lifeblood has been new and used video game software sales -- with used games being the company's biggest profit driver thanks to their fantastic sales margin, but both of these revenue streams look to be on an irreversible decline as game sales migrate to digital channels. Last quarter saw 36% of the specialty retailer's profits come from used games while 16% from new games, but its combined video game sales dipped 14% last year, and these earnings drivers could evaporate over the next decade. The company needs to continue to reinvent itself in order to survive.
GameStop is counting on video game and pop culture merchandise, sales of Apple and AT&T hardware and service packages, and digital vending and software development to be increasingly important sales pillars going forward. This year will see the company double shelf space for merchandise, open new ThinkGeek and technology brand locations, and convert existing video game stores to hybrid GameStop-ThinkGeek locations. Meanwhile, the company expects that it will have closed 150 of its namesake retail outlets by the end of the current fiscal year.
It's rare that a company is able to pivot away from its core business and find comparable success in new markets, but GameStop's low earnings multiple and big dividend make it a bet that's worth considering for the aggressive investor.
Looking for a winning bet
Dan Caplinger (Las Vegas Sands): Gamblers know that the house always wins, and so betting on a casino giant to produce profit might seem like a sure bet. Yet even though Las Vegas Sands has done a good job over time in building up a global gaming empire, it's far from a risk-free stock, and its nearly 5% dividend yield comes with attendant dangers that could have a major impact on its business.
The downturn in Macau over the past few years showed just how vulnerable Las Vegas Sands and its peers are to a combination of deteriorating economic conditions and a more unfriendly regulatory environment. Sands was a first-mover in Macau, and that left it particularly exposed to poor conditions there. Now, Macau is booming again, but Sands is still in a less-than-ideal position because competitors have caught up and are reaping the rewards of their more recently built casino resort properties.
Going forward, Sands has ambitious plans to stoke growth, including the firm belief that it should be the company to spearhead Japan's first gaming resort property. Unfortunately, that prospect is reliant on lawmakers to move forward with appropriate legislation, which is something that governments across the globe have proven time and time again is a risky proposition. Las Vegas Sands has plenty of potential in its existing markets and from potential new growth, but investors have to be prepared for volatility along the way.