For dividend-hungry investors, these are challenging times. As companies continue to contend with the havoc that the coronavirus has wreaked, many management teams are electing to cut -- or even suspend -- their dividends in a bid to better secure their businesses' finances. While this may be a prudent course of action for some individual companies, it's a negative for investors who rely on dividends for the income they generate in their portfolios.
Does this mean that investors should simply forsake dividend-paying stocks? Of course not. There are still plenty of compelling opportunities to be found.
And these aren't nominal yields, either. For example, investors can turn to companies like ALLETE (ALE -2.86%), Brookfield Renewable Partners LP (BEP -2.28%), and Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital (HASI -0.49%) for dividends yielding more than 4% at the moment.
Powering the upper Midwest helps to charge investors' portfolios
In addition to operating utilities that provide power and other services to customers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, ALLETE is an energy company that also owns and maintains electric-transmission assets in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois. But that's not all. Through ALLETE Clean Energy, the company develops and operates renewable-energy projects.
Currently, ALLETE Clean Energy owns and operates a portfolio of clean-energy assets representing about 660 megawatts (MW) of capacity. Management has its eyes on announcing 500 MW of new projects in 2020 with a longer-range goal of building its portfolio out to 2,000 MW of capacity in 2024.
Without interruption, ALLETE has rewarded shareholders through the payment of a dividend since 1948. Currently, the stock provides a forward dividend yield of 4.1% -- which seems particularly attractive considering the Vanguard Utilities Index Fund ETF currently offers investors a dividend yield of 3.25%. In 2019, ALLETE returned $2.35 per share to investors with its dividend, representing a 5% increase over what it paid out in 2018. If the company achieves the midpoint of its guidance in 2020, it will raise the annual dividend payment per share to $2.47, indicating another 5% year-over-year increase.
Lest investors worry that the company's payment of a dividend is jeopardizing its financial health, ALLETE has averaged a payout ratio of 69.2% over the past 10 years. And with the company's regulated operations business accounting for 90% of the company's revenue, investors can be assured that the company has a steady flow of predictable income that can be used to fund growth projects and safely sustain the dividend.
A dividend powered by the sun, wind, and water
Providing a pure-play investment opportunity in renewable energy, Brookfield Renewable Partners is a limited partnership that operates a portfolio that includes solar, wind, distributed generation, and storage assets. However, its hydroelectric-power assets account for the majority of the company's revenue -- 68% in 2019.
With a current dividend yield of 4.2%, Brookfield Renewable Partners now seems especially alluring, considering the fact that a few months ago, the stock was reaching all-time highs. Since the recent market downturn, however, shares have become more attractively priced and are now trading at 6.8 times operating cash flow -- only slightly above their five-year average multiple of 6.6.
The company's board of directors recently approved the 2020 distribution, which represents an annual amount per unit of $2.17, a year-over-year increase of 5%. This steady growth in the distribution is familiar to those who know the company. Since its initial public offering in 1999, in fact, Brookfield Renewable Partners has grown its distribution at an annual rate of 6%.
Management, moreover, aspires to maintain a similar growth trajectory, as it has identified a target of 5% to 9% annual distribution growth. And it doesn't want to forsake the company's financial health just to keep that distribution growth coming, for it's identified a long-term payout ratio of 70% from its funds from operations (FFO). While this ratio was about 90% in 2019, investors can monitor to see if this decreases in line with the company's forecast that FFO will grow at an annual clip of 6% to 9% as it develops projects in its pipeline and benefits from its acquisitions of TerraForm Power.
Providing the green for green energy projects
Proclaiming itself as "the first U.S. public company solely dedicated to investments in climate change solutions, providing capital to leading companies in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sustainable infrastructure markets," Hannon Armstrong is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that offers investors a unique approach to the renewable-energy industry. Essentially, Hannon Armstrong acts as a specialized financier providing capital for the development of green energy projects such as solar and wind farms to ecological restoration to stormwater infrastructure.
With more than 180 projects in the company's well-diversified portfolio, Hannon Armstrong is not overly reliant on any one market for its cash flow generation. And with a weighted 15-year weighted average life on the investments in its portfolio, management has a good sense of future cash flows which helps it to safely plan for dividend raises. It recently announced a 1.5% raise to its quarterly dividend, which now stands at $0.34 per share, while the stock currently offers investors a 4.87% forward dividend yield.
Last words about these dividend darlings
Investors in search of stocks that offer dividend yields of more than 4% need look no further than ALLETE, Brookfield Renewable Partners, and Hannon Armstrong. While these three companies all operate in slightly different niches of the energy sectors, they all generate strong reliable cash flows which should reassure dividend-hungry investors that the related distributions are sustainable.