Every so often companies with incredible dividend histories run into some sort of trouble that makes investors think the dividend might be at risk. Sometimes that's a legitimate concern, and sometimes it's an overreaction. Usually, a closer look at the story will tell you if investor fears are overdone. Right now it looks like Buckeye Partners, L.P. (NYSE:BPL) and Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (NYSE:SKT) are two high-yield dividend stocks that are on the sale rack -- there are problems with each, but I think both will manage to survive and thrive in the years ahead. Here's what you need to know.
Building for the future
Oil and natural gas midstream partnership Buckeye Partners has increased its distribution for 22 consecutive years. That places it in an elite group of midstream companies that includes names like industry bellwether Enterprise Products Partners L.P. with its 21 consecutive annual increases. But Buckeye yields 11.5%, and Enterprise 6.8%.
A big part of the difference here is distribution coverage. In 2017, Buckeye's coverage was 1, down from 1.06 in 2016. Coverage fell to 0.98 in the third quarter, meaning it didn't cover the distribution in that quarter. To put it simply, Buckeye is cutting it pretty close. That's highlighted by the fact that it has decided to stop increasing the distribution for now so it can more easily fund its capital spending plans, including $325 million this year on new pipelines and facility upgrades. Enterprise's coverage in 2017 was 1.2 times; its disbursement is much safer, and it even has plenty of room to keep increasing it.
However, there are some other things to consider here. For example, Buckeye has been through this before, with distribution coverage falling below 1 in 2013 and 2014 while the partnership was investing in its business. Coverage recovered in 2015 and 2016 as its investments began to bear fruit. In addition, its financial foundation remains strong, with debt to EBITDA levels roughly equal to Enterprise's. This suggests that Buckeye remains on sound financial ground, even though coverage is tight right now.
There's uncertainty here, to be sure. But if history is any guide, Buckeye's high yield is an opportunity for more aggressive income investors to pick up a great midstream partnership on the cheap as it invests for the future. As those investments start to bear fruit, coverage will solidify and distribution increases are likely to resume.
A rock solid foundation
Next up is outlet mall real estate investment trust (REIT) Tanger (rhymes with banger). It offers a yield of roughly 6% (about the highest level since the 2007 to 2009 recession), with a 24-year history of annual dividend increases. The shares are down 30% over the past year as investors remain concerned about the so-called retail apocalypse. The word apocalypse is hyperbole, however: online retail is important and it is changing the industry, but it won't completely displace physical stores -- just change the playing field a bit.
Tanger looks well positioned to weather the storm. It has just 44 discount malls, allowing it to really focus on its assets in the shifting retail marketplace. And it has plenty of financial leeway, with interest coverage of over 5 times in 2017. In fact, it only paid out 55% of its FFO as dividends in 2017, leaving plenty of cash to reinvest in the business, grow future dividends, or buy back stock on the cheap.
And while some retail stores are suffering, Tanger's occupancy remains high at 97%. For reference, the REIT's occupancy has never fallen below 95%, even during the many recessions it's lived through. There is notable uncertainty in the retail space today, but it looks like Tanger's shares are being unfairly punished.
Worth a deeper dive
There's no question that buying Buckeye or Tanger involves risk and uncertainty, but that's why their yields are so high today. Neither is appropriate for truly conservative investors. However, if you look at the businesses that back the high yields, there are reasons to be hopeful. Buckeye is building for the future, which is pressuring results today -- but it's been through this before and maintained its distribution. Tanger is financially strong and still doing quite well operationally despite overblown fears about the death of physical retail. It will have to change with the times, but that shouldn't be a problem.