Annaly Capital Management (NYSE:NLY) is an extremely popular dividend stock, due to its sky-high 11% dividend yield. However, some companies have even better dividends. We asked our analysts for three dividend stocks they feel are better than Annaly, and why. Here's what they had to say.
Matt Frankel: Notice that the title of this article says "better," not "higher" dividend. Just because a dividend is high doesn't mean it's better than any other company's dividend.
In fact, the opposite is often true. In Annaly's case, because of the company's highly leveraged nature and the nature of the business model, the ability to pay the dividend is highly dependent on interest rates remaining stable. In other words, the dividend will go up and down over time, and if interest rates spike too much it could disappear entirely.
A better dividend can be found with REITs that own actual properties, like Realty Income Corp. (NYSE:O). The company invests in commercial real estate, which by nature is one of the most stable types of real estate, and it does so with very little debt or other sensitivity to interest rates or other factors.
The annual yield is a much more modest 4.2%, but it makes up for this in other ways. For example, shareholders also benefit when the company's properties appreciate in value, and the company's income (and the dividend) will grow over time. In fact, over its 20-year history as a public company, Realty Income has increased its dividend an astonishing 78 times. And, it has averaged 16.4% annual total returns in that time period.
This kind of consistent performance, as well as its growing income stream, make Realty Income's dividend a better dividend than Annaly's.
Dan Caplinger: As Matt points out, bigger isn't always better when it comes to dividend yields. The mortgage REIT business model has been highly successful in recent years, but it's far from the only way to make money from the financial industry.
For those who prefer more measured exposure to the interest rate environment, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) combines the benefits of rate sensitivity with the rewards of having income sources that aren't related to lending. Over the past year, Wells Fargo generated more than $40 billion in non-interest income, including mortgage-related transactional income, service charges on deposits, and income from its trust and wealth management arm. As much as customers hate paying fees on basic banking services, they continue to do so, and Wells Fargo generated more than $5 billion from bank fees for the second year in a row in 2014.
Wells Fargo's dividend yield of 2.7% might not sound all that great, but over the past five years, its average annual total return of 15.6% crushes Annaly's 3.1% annual return, even adding dividends into the mix. With plenty of growth potential to come, Wells Fargo continues to fire on all cylinders and should be able to keep boosting dividends well into the future.
Jordan Wathen: It's important to remember that a high return does not necessarily have to come through as a dividend. There are a number of financial companies that generate double-digit returns on equity, just like mREITs, while providing for consistently growing dividends from less-risky business models.
Consider Chubb Corp. (NYSE:CB), a classic property and casualty insurer. Over the last 10 years, Chubb has produced double-digit returns on equity in every year but one (2012), in part because it has a durable competitive advantage in selling insurance to wealthy individuals and businesses. The returns largely come from underwriting profits (premiums that exceed losses and expenses) as well as returns from a portfolio dominated by investment-grade debt. Much like Annaly, it takes very little credit risk. Unlike Annaly, however, Chubb essentially gets paid to borrow money to invest in its portfolio because of the float generated from its insurance policies.
While it does not offer an out-of-this-world dividend yield, its 2% dividend yield is almost certain to grow over time, as it has raised its dividend for 32 consecutive years in a row. Not to mention, its share repurchases have helped hold up its share price over time, allowing investors to "create their own dividend" by selling shares. That makes it a great dividend stock to buy and hold for the long haul.