The following five companies offer investors many compelling stories, from a company transitioning away from a dying legacy business to another trying to survive and evolve in a plateauing sales environment. However, the best thing the following five companies offer might just be their high dividend yields, which should entice investors to hold shares while their stories unfold.
1. Altria: up in smoke?
You might be surprised to find a cigarette company on this list of high dividend yields to watch, but despite a declining number of American smokers, Altria (MO 0.08%) still offers an attractive dividend, which management has noted is a high priority for the company's capital. Altria boasts a juicy 8.3% dividend yield, and the company is prepared to adapt to new trends.
There's no question that Altria has had a rough go of it lately, which has sent its stock price roughly 35% lower over the past three years. With claims of illness and even death possibly linked to vaping, some of Altria's massive $12.8 billion investment in Juul has eroded. Plus a canceled merger with Philip Morris International and declining cigarette consumers in the U.S. make a bull thesis for the company difficult. Despite all of those challenges, though, Altria has a chance to reignite its business through a once-taboo route.
After decades of stigma surrounding the marijuana industry, America is finally enabling it to turn into a legitimate market -- and the timing couldn't be better for Altria as it adapts for a likely future with fewer cigarette smokers. Altria purchased a 45% stake in Cronos Group (CRON -2.78%), the first marijuana stock to uplist to a major U.S. exchange, and the latter is now expected to work with Altria to create innovative consumables. Not only is Altria trying to expand into cannabis and/or cannabidiol (which doesn't include THC) products, it also owns roughly 10.2% of Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD -1.47%). It might not be long before Altria is known more for other products than it is for its legacy cigarettes, which is good news for long-term investors who are enticed by its 8.3% dividend yield.
2. Ford Motor: hauling bigger price tags
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you've read plenty about plateauing U.S. vehicle sales and the doom and gloom facing major automakers such as Ford Motor Company (F -3.55%). And it's true that after years of consistent industry growth, sales volume has peaked for this cycle -- but that doesn't mean all is lost. Not all comparisons are created equal, so let's use the broader U.S. sales figures to make a point.
If you glance at headlines, most will say U.S. light-vehicle sales were down 12% in September compared to the prior year. While that's technically true, consider that there were two fewer selling days this September compared to the prior year and that last September logged five weekends plus Labor Day volume during the month, while this September had one less weekend and no Labor Day volume. When factoring in those considerations, sales demand hardly changed. Demand isn't collapsing, despite the negative headlines we sometimes see, and sales remain near all-time highs. The broader sales decline might just be overhyped.
Looking more specifically at Ford, it has another factor supporting its profitability: a better sales mix. 2019 is a transitional year for Ford as it moves further away from sedans and doubles down on trucks and SUVs. That sales mix transition is good news for average transaction prices and profits. Ford's truck and SUV mix of sales increased 500 basis points to 87% during the third quarter, with average transaction prices moving $2,200 higher at the end of September to $37,900 compared to the prior year. Ford's bread-and-butter pickup sales increased 5% to 240,378 units during the third quarter, which makes it the company's best third-quarter performance in 14 years.
Essentially, Ford's core business is still doing well and will improve as it refreshes more of its vehicle portfolio as planned and doubles down on larger, more profitable vehicles. What makes Ford and its juicy 6.97% dividend yield worth watching is that a lot of negativity is priced in: The company trades at a paltry 5.5 times consensus forward price-to-earnings ratio. Ford needs to restructure its global business, as profits mostly disappear outside of North America, and jump-start its stalled business in China as soon as possible. If Detroit's second-largest automaker can do those things, it remains a long-term income stock, as management has reiterated that its dividend is here to stay, during good times and bad.
3. Iron Mountain: rock-solid REIT
The next high-yield dividend stock on this list is a real estate investment trust (REIT). REITs often make fantastic high-yield options for investors because they are required to pass 90% or more of taxable income to shareholders via dividends. The advantage of that strategy is that it offers investors higher-than-average yields but also keeps dividends in specific ratios of profits for stability.
One interesting REIT for investors to consider is Iron Mountain (IRM 0.56%), a leader in storage and information services that makes its money storing and protecting valuable assets, business information, and sensitive data, among other important items.
Let's cover two important aspects of Iron Mountain's business: scale and customer retention. Iron Mountain isn't a small operation. It serves roughly 95% of Fortune 1,000 companies, has a presence in nearly 50 countries across the globe, has roughly 700 million cubic feet of records in more than 1,450 facilities -- 314 owned facilities -- and serves a list of data-intensive industries such as healthcare, federal, legal, and financial, among others.
Its scale is rivaled only by its impressive retention rate: Iron Mountain boasts an incredible 98% customer retention rate, and more than 50% of boxes stay in facilities for an average of 15 years. It's cost-intensive to move so many records, giving Iron Mountain a competitive advantage because clients prefer not to switch storage partners.
That retention rate goes hand in hand with the company's durability as a business. Even during economic downturns, Iron Mountain's business does well, but that doesn't mean it doesn't face disruption. Iron Mountain will need to prepare for a rise in cloud-based storage solutions -- although many industries still currently require hard copies of records -- and prepare for the cybersecurity risks that come with those cloud solutions. While data storage will evolve over the next decade, Iron Mountain is well-positioned to adapt, expand into higher-GDP growth emerging markets, and focus on its data center business. With a 7.5% forward dividend yield, it will remain an intriguing high-yield stock to watch.
4. Macy's: regaining relevance
It's no secret that Macy's (M -3.11%) has struggled to remain as relevant as it once was. While the retail pain extends across the brick-and-mortar industry, Macy's stock has been heavily punished and currently trades at a modest 5.3 times price-to-earnings ratio. On the bright side for investors, that cheap valuation has pushed Macy's dividend yield to a staggering 10%.
While Macy's stock has been hammered, management has been busy working on its comeback strategy, dubbed North Star. The core of the strategy revolves around store remodeling, expanding e-commerce capabilities, real estate sales, and the development of its discount brand Backstage. Macy's strategic initiatives are necessary changes, and management believes they will improve sales in late 2019 and also improve gross margins.
The most pressing matter for investors considering Macy's eye-popping 10% dividend yield is whether the dividend is sustainable. Oftentimes a high dividend yield is a sign it could be in danger of being cut, but Macy's dividend is still at a healthy payout ratio. Its trailing five-year average payout ratio is 45%, which isn't high enough to raise any red flags. Moreover, Macy's is seeing stabilizing financials, a return to comparable-store growth, and free cash flow that still easily covers its dividend payments.
All in all, Macy's is probably a long way from reporting a blockbuster quarterly earnings result, and even if it completes its turnaround, it still likely won't ever be as relevant as it once was. But it doesn't need to be the Macy's of old. For income investors, Macy's offers a 10% dividend yield that appears safe from cuts, and management has the business on the right track and improving.
5. IBM: old dog learning new tricks
Investors don't often have an opportunity to invest in a dividend stock from the tech industry. Part of the reason is that tech companies are often high-growth stocks, and they prioritize reinvesting in their businesses. International Business Machines (IBM -0.20%), however, gives investors an opportunity to invest in a tech giant with a long history that also boasts a 4.5% dividend yield.
IBM's juicy dividend yield is partially due to it trading at a 10 times price-to-earnings ratio, as investors have yet to be convinced the company can transition from its legacy hardware-related business into growth areas that include cloud computing, security technologies, and analytics, among others. But the company has made some intriguing moves, including investments in IBM Cloud and the acquisition of Red Hat, which should bolster its cloud business even further. Cloud businesses accounted for roughly 25% of total revenue over the past 12 months.
What's potentially more intriguing for long-term investors is IBM's attempt to accelerate innovation. Consider this: In 2018, IBM filed a staggering 9,100 patents, which was more than the next two companies combined. And don't sleep on IBM's legacy hardware business. The company recently unveiled its latest mainframe, the z15, which could boost sales with its focus on privacy and security.
IBM will certainly be a dividend stock to watch as it tries to evolve and keep up with high-growth tech companies. As IBM's potential growth story and evolution unfold, income investors should still be enticed to hold shares thanks to its dividend.
Five dividend stocks worth a look
Whether you're intrigued by a "sin" stock's transition away from its legacy cigarette business, an automaker's focus on more profitable vehicles amid an industry sales plateau, a REIT that's required to send 90% of taxable income to investors via dividends, a struggling retailer trying to reinvent itself, or a tech giant evolving into high-growth areas, there's no question Altria, Ford, Iron Mountain, Macy's, and IBM all offer high-dividend yields and some fascinating stories to watch unfold.