All stocks require some research to determine if they're suitable for investors' particular objectives. But some investment alternatives require a bit more digging than others, including income-producing stocks.
For in-the-know investors willing to do a bit of homework, three stocks worth a look include cloud data center mainstay Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Asian telecom giant China Mobile (NYSE:CHL), and another telecom behemoth, Russia-based Mobile TeleSystems (NYSE:MBT).
The ball is rolling
Tim Brugger (Intel): CEO Brian Krzanich has Intel focused on up-and-coming markets including the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud-based data centers. Impressively, Intel is making significant headway in its transition away from an overreliance on PCs, while at the same time reducing overhead.
Last quarter's 6% rise in revenue to $16.15 billion, and jaw-dropping 36% jump in per-share earnings to $0.94, were accomplished in conjunction with shaving operating expenses 10.5% to $4.9 billion. Intel's operating expenses are down 11% for the year. Growing both the top and bottom lines along with cutting expenses is a winning combination if ever there was one.
The PC market's relatively solid performance may surprise some, and Intel is still poised to benefit despite its transition to new markets. Last quarter's $8.9 billion in PC-related revenue was flat year over year, but PCs still represent a significant revenue source. Data center sales rose 7% to $4.9 billion, which is important given Intel's self-proclaimed "data center first" mantra.
Intel's third largest unit, memory solutions, soared 37% to $891 million, while IoT revenue popped 23% to $849 million. Finally, sales in Intel's programmable solutions group -- which is a separate unit but plays a critical role in its IoT efforts -- were up 10% to $469 million. Combined, these important units now make up 44% of Intel's total revenue.
Growth where it counts, operational efficiency, and a 2.35% dividend yield (well above its peers) are why Intel is a stock for in-the-know investors.
An easy bet on China
Jeremy Bowman (China Mobile): When investors think of high-yield dividend stocks, they don't usually look to China, but the world's second-largest economy has some solid income plays. China Mobile is one such option.
It's the world's largest telecom company, and one of the biggest stocks in Asia. Its size and stability help make China Mobile a solid bet for income investors, as it offers a dividend yield of 5.6%. That figure was inflated by a recent special dividend, but without it, the company has still paid a dividend yielding between 3% and 5% since the recession. Institutional investors have also taken notice, as firms like Lazard and BlackRock have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the telco.
Beyond its dividend yield and strength as the leading telecom operator in the world's biggest country, there are a number of other reasons income investors should consider China Mobile. Its payout ratio, historically around 43% -- giving the company room to invest in new infrastructure -- is an indication that its dividend is well-funded.
With only 52% of Chinese on the internet today, the company has growth opportunities that its American and European peers don't, and it should see profits rise as the country modernizes and more Chinese get online.
China Mobile pays out its dividend on a semiannual basis and distributions fluctuate according to profits, so they may not be as dependable as with traditional dividend stocks. But if you're looking for a dividend play with exposure to China, China Mobile -- with its size, strength, and growth prospects -- presents a great option.
From Russia with dividends
Rich Smith (Mobile TeleSystems): Would any investor in their right mind invest in Russia today? Actually, yes. A couple months ago, Yale economics professor and Nobel laureate Robert Shiller went on CNBC to sing the praises of investing in Russia, the country with "the lowest CAPE ratio" (that's cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings) in the developed world.
Sure, Russia has a bad reputation. But Prof. Shiller argues that when valuations get as cheap as what we see in Russia today, you have to at least think about "doing a little Russia" -- and to my mind, one of the first Russian stocks you should consider doing is Mobile TeleSystems (MTS).
Priced at just 6.5 times trailing earnings, and with a long-term growth rate pegged at 8.6%, MTS is too cheap to ignore -- the more so when you remember that this is not some fly-by-night organization we're talking about, but the biggest cellphone provider in Russia.
Something else investors should know: MTS is a great dividend payer. Its 7.7% dividend yield dwarfs the payouts at AT&T and Verizon here in the U.S. And while MTS's payout ratio currently exceeds 100%, which may raise worries that the company might ratchet back its payouts, MTS seems to have no problem with devoting all its profits to dividend payments. Indeed, it's consistently paid out roughly 100% of its income as dividends for the past three years.