Chasing yield is a risky proposition for income-seeking investors, as some of the most dangerous dividend-paying stocks sport very high yields. Smart investors know to also consider the underlying fundamentals of the business to ensure it can support the dividend and yield it pays.
We asked three Motley Fool investors to identify an investment that gives income investors room for capital appreciation while also paving the way for continued income generation. Check out why EPR Properties (NYSE:EPR), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), and Iron Mountain (NYSE:IRM) fit the bill.
A 6.6% yield and room to grow
Matt Frankel (EPR Properties): EPR Properties is a real estate investment trust, or REIT, but instead of focusing on one type of property, it owns three types: entertainment, recreation, and education.
The entertainment property segment is the company's largest, and it mainly consists of megaplex theaters, a business that has grown revenue tremendously while keeping up with changing consumer demands such as luxury seating and more food and beverage options. And the recreation properties include golf centers (TopGolf is a major tenant), waterparks, ski resorts, and more.
These two types of properties are partly a play on the 75 million millennials in the United States. This generation values experiences (as opposed to simply buying things) far more than generations before it, and with members currently between 22 and 36 years old, this demographic is just starting to reach its prime earning/spending years. In fact, UBS has estimated that millennials could be worth as much as $24 trillion by 2020.
Finally, the education properties add some diversification, as well as an element of recession-resistance. EPR owns charter schools (more than 1 million students are on charter school wait lists), as well as private schools and early childhood education centers.
As far as the dividend goes, the current annualized payout of $4.32 per share represents less than 75% of the company's adjusted FFO guidance for 2018 -- a rather low payout ratio for a REIT. So, not only is this a diverse REIT with favorable demographic tailwinds, there's already room to increase the dividend based on its current earnings.
A safe bet
George Budwell (Pfizer): At 3.74%, Pfizer offers up one of the more attractive yields in not only the pharmaceutical space, but in the entire healthcare sector. Apart from its above-average yield for a healthcare stock, Pfizer's dividend also appears sustainable based on its rock-bottom payout ratio of 36%, and sizable cash position that stood at over $11 billion in the most recent quarter.
Should investors snap up this top pharma dividend stock? I certainly think so.
Although Pfizer has been going through a drawn-out turnaround process thanks to the loss of multiple blockbuster products to the patent cliff, the company is finally set to start putting this headwind behind it. With a renewed focus on high-value oncology and immunology products, Pfizer's top line is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 2% over the next five years, according to a report by EvaluateGroup. That would make the drugmaker the second largest pharmaceutical company in the world in terms of sales by 2024, and keep its free cash flows headed in the right direction.
Perhaps the best part about this dividend stock, though, is that Pfizer's management has been extremely generous when it comes to returning profits to shareholders. In the past three years, for example, the drugmaker has grown its dividend program by a healthy 21.4% per year on average. Pfizer thus sports the second fastest growing dividend among large-cap pharmaceuticals stocks, and that trend doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.
In all, Pfizer's dividend is above average in terms of yield and growth rate relative to its peer group, and it's built for the long haul, making it a great income stock to own.
The rock-solid data handling
Rich Duprey (Iron Mountain): Data retention specialist Iron Mountain has chiseled out a record of growth and returns over the past five years, a performance that, because of its solid business prospects, it should be able to build on.
Structured as a real estate investment trust, it is expected to pay investors almost all of its profits as dividends, yet it has doubled its payout over the past five years and should be able to readily attain management's goal of increasing the payout by 4% annually going forward.
Iron Mountain not only operates a physical document storage business, it also ensures the secure shredding of sensitive materials as well as document imaging. It houses 89 million pieces of media and 1 billion medical images across 1,400 facilities in 52 countries. It has also been acquiring new businesses to add to its stronghold, most recently in Croatia, where it purchased similarly situated Arhiv Trezor, which provides records management, secure destruction, and secure transportation.
Iron Mountain's dividend yields 6.8% annually, and because it enjoys high customer retention rates -- some 95% of Fortune 1000 clients entrust their data to it -- investors can expect its dependable cash flows will continue generating sufficient resources to fund the payout.
The company's spending spree has generated significant debt, but management believes it is completely manageable, and with its record of results, there's sufficient reason to think they'll be able to sustain things.