Because yield is the proportion of a company's annual dividend payout relative to its stock price, it's not unusual to see stocks that offer big yields also trading at relatively low price-to-earnings multiples. However, a stock isn't necessarily cheap just because it has a big dividend and a P/E that is below the market average. 

Instead of having unquestioned devotion to earnings multiples and yields, dividend investors will typically be best served by seeking out businesses that are also poised for the types of continued success that will allow payouts to keep flowing and growing. Within that mold, three Motley Fool contributors have identified Brookfield Renewable Partners LP (NYSE: BEP), AstraZeneca PLC (NYSE: AZN), and Hanesbrands (NYSE: HBI) as stocks with big yields that also trade at substantial discounts relative to their long-term earnings potential. Read on to find out why. 

Hundred dollar bills in a glass jar.

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Diversifying its renewable portfolio

Maxx Chatsko (Brookfield Renewable Partners): Few companies bluntly state that their goal is to reward investors with long-term annualized total returns averaging 12% to 15%, but Brookfield Renewable Partners isn't shy about making that promise. A steady stream of growth investments on four continents has historically helped the business deliver, while an impressive distribution yield of 6.3% does a good bit of the heavy lifting, too. 

However, the price of units has slipped 11% in the last year. Adding in hefty distribution payments only bumps up the total return to negative 5%, compared to a total return of 18% for the S&P 500 in that span. Investors shouldn't expect the trend to linger much longer.

The major contributing factor to the company's poor performance has been unusually weak North American hydroelectric dam output. Water runoff this year is 11% below the five-year average and 18% below an unusually strong 2018. That hurts Brookfield Renewable Partners because approximately 76% of its renewable electricity generation comes from hydropower. But some portfolio reshuffling this year should help the business get back on track and better diversify its future earnings mix. 

Brookfield Renewable Partners is investing heavily in wind, solar, and storage projects, which are now among the cheapest sources of electricity generation. It also recently spent $420 million to increase its stake in TerraForm Power, which shares the same parent in Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, from 16% to 30%. TerraForm Power in turn used the capital to acquire 1,028 megawatts of European wind and solar capacity. While the recent diversification investments might take some time to show up in financial statements, the long-term potential -- and the ability to deliver on average annualized returns of 12% to 15% -- remain intact.

A big pharma on the comeback trail

George Budwell (AstraZeneca): Not long ago, Astra's above-average dividend yield of 3.74% appeared to be in real danger of being slashed or suspended outright. The company's pivot to immuno-oncology stalled after its checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi failed to perform as hoped as a treatment for early stage lung cancer last year. However, Astra's fortunes have reversed course in a big way since this devastating clinical setback, putting its top-notch dividend on much firmer ground.

Turning to the specifics, last February Astra grabbed a highly lucrative label expansion for Imfinzi in stage 3 non-small-cell lung cancer in patients who have progressed after chemo and radiation therapy. And this week, the biopharma announced the approval of Lumoxiti in patients with the rare hairy-cell leukemia who have undergone at least two prior therapies. These two high-value approvals come on top of Calquence's approval in mantle cell lymphoma late last year, as well as improving sales of its other major oncology drugs Iressa, Lynparza, and Tagrisso in recent quarters.

Astra thus sports one of the more diverse and valuable oncology portfolios in the business. So, not surprisingly, Wall Street thinks the company can grow its top line by a whopping 7% per year for the next six years, according to a report by EvaluatePharma. And if this optimistic outlook holds, Astra's shares will turn out to be trading at only three times the company's 2024 sales. That forward-looking valuation is among the lowest within the large-cap biopharmaceutical space. 

More important for income investors, though, this encouraging revenue forecast should comfortably support the company's top dividend program in the years to come. Bargain hunters and income investors alike, therefore, might want to buy into this compelling turnaround story soon. 

Time-tested brands and a strong dividend

Keith Noonan (Hanesbrands): Apparel company Hanesbrands' shares are down roughly 30% over the last year due to some weaker-than-expected earnings performance, and the fact that its contract with Target to exclusively carry the C9 Champion activewear line is not being renewed beyond January 2020.

Not everything is going well for the business, but Hanesbrands looks cheap, valued at just 10 times this year's expected earnings, and deserves the attention of value-focused dividend investors. 

Shares yield roughly 3.4% at today's prices, comfortably above both the S&P 500 average yield of 1.8% and the 10-year Treasury bond (2.9%). Despite not delivering a payout increase within the last year, the company has tripled its payout over the last decade, and it still has substantial room for payout growth going forward. Hanesbrands generated enough free cash flow over the trailing 12-month period to cover its distribution twice over, and it expects to increase its cash flow roughly 80% over the next five-year period.

Despite losing roughly a year of sales with the C9 brand due to the lapsing Target deal, the company expects that the Champion brand will grow from $1.4 billion in 2017 to $2 billion in 2020. Beyond Champion and its namesake Hanes, the company also owns brands including Wonderbra and Playtex, which form a solid, dependable product portfolio. The business is expanding its international sales, adding new offerings through acquisitions, and trimming operating expenses. Patient investors could see a big payoff with Hanesbrands.