With the yield for 10-year Treasury bonds at roughly 3% and the stock market in the neighborhood of a record high, some investors see less appeal in dividend stocks. Bond yields and the pricing of the broader market may be worth keeping in mind when formulating your investment strategies, but completely eschewing dividend stocks due to those conditions could be a recipe for missing out on compelling companies that are delivering even better yields.
We asked three Motley Fool investors to identify a top income-generating stock that's still worth buying today and holding for the long term. Read on to see why they picked AstraZeneca plc (NYSE:AZN), IBM (NYSE:IBM), and AT&T (NYSE:T).
Time to buy this top pharma stock
George Budwell (AstraZeneca plc): Pharma stocks aren't generally known for lavish dividend programs due to the tremendous costs of running clinical trials and supporting the launches of drugs onto the market. However, Anglo-Swedish pharma titan AstraZeneca is among the few drugmakers that do offer a truly exceptional yield. At last count, Astra's annualized yield came to a sizable 3.97%, well above average for its immediate peer group, as well as the healthcare sector at large.
Wall Street, however, isn't entirely convinced that Astra can maintain this sky-high yield. The drugmaker's trailing 12-month payout ratio, after all, stands at a tad over 118%, and its foray into immuno-oncology (I-O) hasn't exactly gone as planned. Astra's top I-O drug Imfinzi, for instance, has largely failed to keep up with leaders in the field -- Merck's (NYSE:MRK) Keytruda and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE:BMY) Opdivo -- from a development standpoint.
As a result, industry insiders are forecasting Imfinzi's sales to come in at $3.6 billion in 2024, which pales in comparison to the 2024 consensus estimates for Merck's and Bristol's competing drugs ($12.7 billion and $11.2 billion, respectively). Stated simply, Astra's I-O franchise probably won't be the supercharged growth driver that many were hoping for only a few years ago.
That being said, Astra's broader oncology portfolio is performing admirably, thanks to the strong start for newer drugs like the lung cancer treatment Tagrisso, which is on track to generate upward of $3.9 billion in sales within the next six years. The net result is that Astra's top line is expected to grow by a healthy 7% on average for the next five years. If that compound annual growth rate holds, this top drugmaker should have no problem covering its dividend at current levels, arguably making it a great addition to an income-oriented portfolio right now.
Big Blue offers a big yield
Keith Noonan (IBM): With the company having missed out on the early days of the cloud software and platform-as-a-service models that have reshaped enterprise tech, IBM has the reputation for being a lumbering dinosaur out of step with the big changes in its industry.
Some of that is deserved. Its core hardware and software businesses continue to decline, and company sales are down roughly 20% over the last five years. However, IBM has been making progress on its reinvention, and I think its stock presents appealing value at current prices.
The company continues to move away from its hardware and services business and toward a model that's more focused on cloud services, artificial intelligence, and security. IBM recently took the wraps off Summit, a supercomputer that it built in a partnership with NVIDIA and the U.S. Department of Energy that it says is currently the fastest in the world. Big Blue has also positioned itself as an early leader in the blockchain space.
Major hurdles remain, but IBM appears to be making progress on better meeting the shifting needs of the enterprise tech sector. That progress doesn't seem to be fully reflected in the company's valuation. Shares trade at roughly 10.5 times this year's expected earnings and come with a 4.3% dividend yield -- metrics that should be of interest for value investors looking for income-generating stocks. Big Blue has also delivered a 22-year streak of annual dividend increases and has nonprohibitive payout ratios, so it looks like shareholders can count on shares purchased today boasting an even bigger yield in years to come.
A telecom in distress
Nicholas Rossolillo (AT&T): Recent events have not been friendly to AT&T's share price. Telecom hasn't been doing particularly well anyway, and uncertainty surrounding AT&T's takeover of media company Time Warner (NYSE:TWX.DL) and a proposed merger between smaller competitors Sprint and T-Mobile have helped push shares as much as 20% lower from late 2017 highs.
Even after getting the nod to buy Time Warner, AT&T still has to contend with the cord-cutting trend affecting its DirecTV segment, a competitive mobile-network industry, and an expensive build-out of next-generation 5G mobile service. In spite of these challenges, the telecom has been slowly but steadily raising its dividend over the years, and it yields roughly 6.1% as of this writing.
It's true that the company has had difficulty growing, and the first quarter of 2018 was no different; year-over-year comparable revenues fell 1%. However, a massive gift was handed AT&T via the corporate tax reform passed at the end of 2017. That helped push adjusted Q1 earnings up 15% from a year ago. All of that extra cash will go a long way in helping the company right its ship and keep the dividend propped up. Thus, even with a difficult stretch of road ahead, AT&T stock looks like an intriguing pick for dividend investors.