Since the Great Recession ended more than 12 years ago, growth stocks have been the talk of Wall Street. Historically low lending rates and an accommodative Federal Reserve have paved the way for fast-paced companies to borrow cheaply in order to hire, acquire, and innovate.
But look out over many decades and you'll find that dividend stocks have been the superior play. A report from J.P. Morgan Asset Management, a division of JPMorgan Chase, found the average annual return for companies that initiated and grew their payouts between 1972 and 2012 completely trounced the average annual return of companies that didn't pay a dividend over the same four-decade span (9.5% vs. 1.6%).
While all eyes remain on growth stocks, some analysts on Wall Street foresee big upside for a handful of ultra-high-yield dividend stocks (i.e., companies arbitrarily defined as having yields of 7% or higher). Based on the high-water price targets from analysts, the following three ultra-high-yield stocks could rise 42% to as much as 50% over the next 12 months.
Enterprise Products Partners: 7.97% yield with 42% implied upside
First up is oil stock Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD), which one Wall Street investment bank believes could reach $32 a share over the coming year. If this lofty price target proves accurate, investors would net 42% share price upside while also collecting an 8% yield.
Although investors might be leery of putting their money to work in oil stocks given the historic demand drawdown witnessed in 2020 for crude oil, Enterprise Products doesn't come with these same concerns. That's because it's a midstream operator, with approximately 50,000 miles of pipeline, 14 billion cubic feet of natural gas storage, and 19 natural gas processing facilities. Whereas drillers are directly affected by the vacillations in crude oil and natural gas prices, midstream operators are usually insulated by the structure of their contracts. This is the case with Enterprise Products Partners.
On the flipside, higher fossil fuel prices certainly won't hurt. With crude oil recently hitting a seven-year high, drillers are incented to boost production. Since Enterprise Products Partners regularly allots capital for infrastructure projects, higher crude oil and natural gas prices should lead to steady cash flow expansion.
It's also worth mentioning how sturdy this payout has become. Even during the worst of the pandemic in 2020, the company's distribution coverage ratio never fell below 1.6 (anything below 1 would suggest an unsustainable payout). The distribution coverage ratio describes the amount of distributable cash flow for the company relative to the cash paid to shareholders.
Enterprise Products Partners is riding a 22-year streak of increasing its base annual distribution and I see no reason why it won't hit 23 years in 2022.
AT&T: 8.29% yield with 47% implied upside
Another ultra-high-yield dividend stock with serious upside potential is telecom giant AT&T (NYSE:T). The highest price target on Wall Street of $37 suggests that this telco stalwart could appreciate up to 47% in the coming 12 months. Take note that while AT&T is currently yielding 8.3%, this payout is expected to decline to closer to 4.5% to 5% in 2022 following the spinoff of WarnerMedia into a separate entity.
Arguably the biggest catalyst for AT&T is this expected combination of WarnerMedia with Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA)(NASDAQ:DISCK) in the upcoming year. The new media entity, known as WarnerMedia-Discovery, will be better positioned to compete in a rapidly growing but competitive streaming landscape. In particular, original content and sporting events should help differentiate the new media entity from its key rivals. WarnerMedia-Discovery also expects to recognize at least $3 billion in annual cost synergies.
As of September, this pro forma combination had a little over 85 million streaming subscribers. That's less than half of Netflix and it trails Walt Disney's Disney+ streaming service. But according to current Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who'll be taking the helm at WarnerMedia-Discovery, hitting 400 million global streaming subscribers isn't out of the question.
Beyond just gaining access to what should be a top-notch streaming company, AT&T should benefit from the ongoing rollout of 5G wireless infrastructure. It's been a decade since wireless download speeds were meaningfully improved, which means the upgrade to 5G should encourage a multiyear consumer and enterprise device upgrade cycle. Since data is what drives the bulk of AT&T's wireless margins, the company is well-positioned for sustainable organic growth through mid-decade.
Altria Group: 7.96% yield with 50% implied upside
But the crème de la crème of upside opportunity on this list is none other U.S. tobacco stock Altria Group (NYSE:MO). With a high-water price target on Wall Street of $68, the implication is shares of this 8%-yielding company could head higher by 50% over the next year.
Altria, the company behind the premium Marlboro brand of cigarettes, has been challenged for decades by declining adult smoking rates in the United States. As the dangers of long-term tobacco use have come to light, the percentage of adults smoking tobacco cigarettes has declined from by two-thirds since the mid-1960s.
However, this decline in adult smokers hasn't stopped the company from growing. One reason for that is Altria's superb pricing power. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is an addictive chemical. This addictive quality has allowed Altria to pass along steep price hikes, especially for its Marlboro brand, which more than outweigh any decline in cigarette shipment volumes.
The company is also actively looking at new revenue channels that'll leave it less reliant on tobacco cigarettes. An example would be Altria's $1.8 billion equity investment in Canadian licensed cannabis producer Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON), which closed in March 2019. If and when the U.S. federal government legalizes marijuana, Cronos would be free to enter the U.S. market. The expectation is Altria will work with Cronos to develop, market, and distribute cannabis vape products, and perhaps other high-margin derivatives.
It's worth pointing out that Altria owns a stake in vaping company Juul, as well.
Though its days as a high-growth company are long gone, Altria continues to deliver for its shareholders. While 50% upside in 12 months is probably asking a bit much, long-term investors could certainly grow their wealth with Altria Group.