Inflation is sometimes called a "hidden tax." One way to help offset it is stock dividends -- preferably, dividends that can grow at a rate higher than inflation for years to come.
However, telecom stocks are debt-laden and low-growth. These days, the semiconductor sector is one area of tech that can provide both high dividends and growth. While this sector is known to be cyclical, investors who have bought and held semiconductor stocks over the past decade have, on average, done quite well.
The recent stock-market swoon has hammered many chip stocks; however, over the long term, demand for their products is set to grow. With high yields and cheap valuations, these three yield plays look especially attractive today.
Not only is chipmaker Broadcom (AVGO -1.60%) diversified in terms of the types of chips it makes, but the company has also been diversifying into software, which has more consistent revenue and cash flow. In fact, Broadcom just announced a massive $61 billion cash-and-stock acquisition of software giant VMware (VMW), a specialist in network virtualization and multicloud computing. The new acquisition will actually bring Broadcom's software business to nearly 50% of pro forma revenue, so if the deal goes through, Broadcom can't actually be considered a pure semiconductor stock anymore.
Fortunately, Broadcom's current semiconductor businesses are very high-margin and cash-generating. Last quarter, revenue grew 23%, with 29% growth in the semiconductor portfolio and 5% growth in the software portfolio, while free cash flow grew 20.8% to $4.16 billion. That free cash flow was enough to cover the company's hefty 3.4% dividend more than twice over.
Some might worry about Broadcom taking on such a large acquisition. However, the company has built itself into its current highly profitable state through acquisitions. CEO Hock Tan has a private-equity mentality, acquiring category leaders, then cutting costs as Broadcom folds each business into its larger-scale corporate structure. Broadcom's chips now touch a broad range of applications, including data center networking, enterprise storage controllers, and auto and industrial applications, which are currently showing strength even in a tougher economy.
Trading at just 12.5 times forward earnings estimates, while also diversifying its portfolio further into software, Broadcom looks like a defensive high-yield play to get through a tough year.
2. Texas Instruments
Another defensive chip stock sporting a high 3% yield is Texas Instruments (TXN -0.32%). The largest player in the fields of analog and embedded chips, Texas Instruments has survived and thrived since 1930 thanks to its laser-like focus on capital allocation and free cash flow per share. That relentless focus is why TI enjoys massive operating margins that exceed 50% of revenue today, allowing it to invest in expansion while also rewarding shareholders with dividends and share repurchases.
While consumer electronics are definitely in for declining sales in the near future, Texas Instruments has positioned itself in the highest-growing parts of the chip market: automotive and industrial chips. In fact, some of the current chip shortage problems can likely be traced back to Texas Instruments. However, demand exceeding supply is a problem many would like to have right now, and Texas Instruments has a new fabrication plant coming online in the second half of 2022 and another in the first half of 2023. That should allow revenue to grow above last quarter's 14% growth rate.
Although management expects the recent quarter to decline sequentially, that's mostly due to pandemic lockdowns in China. As new capacity ramps up over the next year, growth should get back underway. Texas Instruments has raised its dividend at a 25% annualized rate since 2004 -- including a 13% increase late last year -- so I'd expect another double-digit increase in late 2022, despite lingering macroeconomic concerns.
3. Seagate Technology
As a maker of hard disk drives, Seagate won't earn any points for excitement. But what is exciting is its 3.8% yield and price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 9.3. Although hard disk technology is clearly losing some market share to the newer NAND flash storage technology, it's still the lowest-cost format for bulk non-volatile storage. This is especially true in cloud data centers, where cloud infrastructure players have been buying huge amounts of hard disks to store ever-increasing amounts of data. For Seagate, its number of "mass capacity" exabytes grew 20% last quarter, and "mass capacity" drives now make up 73% of Seagate's revenue.
While Seagate's revenue might not grow as fast as some other chip companies, it has been remarkably consistent and profitable in recent years, allowing the company to pay consistent dividends and repurchase lots of stock. That's likely because Seagate operates in a true oligopoly in hard disk manufacturing, with just two other major players supplying the entire globe. Even in the brutal downturn of 2019, Seagate's revenue declined less than 7%, and operating income only declined 9%, before resuming growth.
Seagate's rock-bottom P/E ratio implies a company in much worse decline than that. However, if you think the cloud will grow over the long term, that more and more data will need to be stored and analyzed, and that hard disks will have their place in the bulk storage segment, Seagate looks like a smart dividend-yield play in uncertain times.