Like the Incredible Hulk, dividends are a force to be reckoned with.

If you ask me, there is no better way to quickly determine the overall attractiveness of a stock than by checking out its dividend. Dividends can give you a sense of whether a company is really making money, whether its stock is reasonably valued, and how management views shareholders. All in all, it's a pretty mighty number.

And while most investors are very familiar with dividend royalty like Altria (NYSE:MO) and Merck (NYSE:MRK), there are also plenty of good dividend-paying companies that are small enough to fly under Wall Street's radar. And many of these undercover dividend payers offer higher dividend payouts, better growth, or both.

To uncover some of these small dividend dynamos, I turned to the Motley Fool CAPS community, looking specifically for companies with a market cap below $5 billion and a dividend yield above 2.5%.


Market Cap

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)


$2.0 billion



Overseas Shipholding Group

$1.1 billion



Pengrowth Energy Trust (NYSE:PGH)

$2.6 billion



Innophos Holdings (NASDAQ:IPHS)

$379 million



American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO)

$3.3 billion



Sources: CAPS and Yahoo! Finance.

While the stocks above are all small and dividend-paying, it's apparent by their star ratings that the CAPS community doesn't think they're all worth your investment dollars. They could all be worth researching further, though, and to get you started, let's take a closer look at Pengrowth Energy Trust.

The business
If a next-generation business that's going to take the world by storm is what you're after, then Pengrowth is probably not what you're looking for. But if you're looking for a dependable business that will plug along for years to come, then keep listening.

Pengrowth is an oil and gas company that acquires and develops properties in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. At the end of last year's third quarter, roughly 33% of the company's production was light oil, 29% was conventional gas, 20% was shallow and unconventional gas, and the remainder was a mix of heavy oil and offshore gas. The company has also been toying with developing oil sands. Simple enough?

The dividend
Here's where Pengrowth gets a little tricky. Currently, the company is organized as a royalty trust, which gives it tax advantages when distributing profits to investors. However, changes to Canadian tax law mean that starting in 2011 the company -- along with fellow Canadian royalty trusts Penn West (NYSE:PWE) and Harvest Energy (NYSE:HTE) -- will have to pay taxes just like any other corporation. This will certainly have an impact on Pengrowth's payout.

Meanwhile, the company has historically had a payout that's bounced around as energy prices waxed and waned and varying amounts were available to distribute. While I actually prefer when companies make payouts based on the year's results rather than a quasi-fixed dividend, once Pengrowth converts to a normal corporation, we could see its dividend put on a more conservative, dependable schedule.

But while there may be significant uncertainty about exactly what will happen when Pengrowth makes its conversion, the company seems to have its focus in the right places. For one, it's making sure that the dividend stays sustainable by targeting capital expenditures and distributions that equal operating cash flow. In addition, Pengrowth is continuing to eye acquisitions that could help it fund continuing and growing dividends for years down the road.

CAPS members sound off
On CAPS, 950 members have found their way to Pengrowth's page and rated the stock an outperformer, while just 34 called it an underperformer. This ratings ratio has given the stock a perfect five stars and put it among the top 20% in the CAPS system.

But why have members been so bullish? Here's what CAPS All-Star imajerbear had to say in April of last year:

Oil and gas may be deep in to it right now, but long term as the world economy pulls itself up by it's bootstraps, oil will make a comeback. Alt energy is wonderful, but it will take many years for it to make a significant dent in the use of oil. The days of easy extraction of oil are gone and some of the petroleum resources ie oil shale will require prices above $80 long term to exploit them economically. Oil fields around the world are showing decreases, some major, in their output. I am also convinced that OPEC is actually serious this time about toeing the line on production reductions to try to drive the price of oil to the $70 mark or better. long petroleum 10 to 20 years!!

That call has already earned imajerbear 47 points, but if this member's bullishness on fossil fuels proves correct, there could be plenty more to come.

Your turn
Think these dividend payers have what it takes to be top-notch investments? Head over to CAPS and share your thoughts on the prospects for Pengrowth or any of the other companies listed above.

Pengrowth may be a good investment opportunity, but my fellow Fool Tim Hanson believes he's found the biggest investment opportunity of the year.

The Fool owns shares of Innophos Holdings. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool. The Fool's disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants ...