Over the past five years, the global mining sector has undergone an intense period of consolidation. A few companies like BHP (NYSE:BHP) and Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) made sizable acquisitions at the height of the commodity boom. After divesting assets and write-downs, the mining giants are much more efficient and generating significant cash from operations.
The mining CEOs from the past have been replaced and current management is focused on managing existing operations rather than acquisitions. Compared to the S&P 500 Index which has been trending higher for the past year, most global miners are down about 20%. The following five offer attractive dividends and significant value for shareholders.
Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE) Dividend Yield: 4.50%
Vale is Brazil's largest miner and produces iron ore, copper, coal, fertilizers and precious metals. Vale at $17 is 50% off its 2011 high. The market has been concerned about the demand for iron ore out of China and a bearish forecast for iron ore prices. As China rebounds look for iron ore demand to pickup and mining shares to go higher (see how hedge funds are trading Vale).
From a valuation perspective, Vale is cheap all around. Vale shares are trading with a forward P/E of only 7.04 and has a PEG ratio of -0.39. From that metric alone, it doesn't get much cheaper than that for a stock. The company posts an impressive operating margin of 28.85%. With a book value per share of $14.52, the downside to buying Vale at current levels is minimal, not to mention the fantastic 4.50% dividend yield.
Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE:NEM) Dividend Yield: 4.10%
Newmont Mining is in the business of producing gold and copper. The company has proven and probable reserves of 99.2 million ounces spread over 29,000 square miles. Newmont like the other miners has focused on margins and trimming costs rather than boosting output. There's also speculation that Newmont may look to sell assets to unlock value within the company. Newmont is also incredibly cheap like Vale. It has a PEG ratio that's even better than Vale's at -5.44. The forward P/E is 8.27 and book value per share is $27.73. With a dividend yield of 4.10%, the company has a payout ratio of 39%.
Rio Tinto plc Dividend Yield: 3.90%
Rio, like BHP Billiton and Vale, has seen its share price drop considerably recently. China has accused the leading producers of holding back supply to boost profits. Concerns have shifted to where iron ore prices are heading for the rest of the year as new mines are scheduled to come online. Iron ore prices are currently trading at $137 per tone.
Iron ore prices are expected to fluctuate over the long-term between $110 and $180. Even at the low-end of the spectrum, iron ore producers have significant operating margins. Compared to its peers, Rio has a forward P/E of 6.30 and a PEG ratio of 0.46. Rio has an operating margin of 22.49% and book value per share of $25.37. Rio recently showed its CEO the door, now could be the time to invest (see why here).
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE:FCX) Dividend Yield: 3.80%
Freeport-McMoRan produces copper, gold, molybdenum, cobalt, silver and other metals. The company isn't exposed to the iron ore sector like Rio, BHP and Vale. In terms of reserves, the company has 116.5 billion pounds of copper, 32.5 million ounces of gold, 3.42 billion pounds of molybdenum, 321.4 million ounces of silver, and 0.84 billion pounds of cobalt. Freeport-McMoRan stock has been trading near its 52-week low of $30.54 after it announced it would buy Plains Exploration and purchase the outstanding shares of its McMoRan Exploration subsidiary.
Investors quite frankly don't want to see a mining company getting into the oil and gas business, no matter how much the deals make sense. Investors are much more focused on mining companies paring operations and returning cash to shareholders.
Longer-term these 2 acquisitions make sense for Freeport-McMoRan. Both Plains and McMoRan Exploration have attractive properties in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Gulf Coast. The oil and gas acquisitions will further diversify the company, but interested buyers in the stock must take a longer-term perspective than in the other mining stocks (read more about the deal here).
BHP Billiton Limited Dividend Yield: 3.30%
BHP is an Australian mining giant with a market cap of over $184 billion. The company is involved in oil & gas, copper, silver, lead, zinc, molybdenum, uranium, gold, diamonds, iron ore, potash, nickel, coal and several other commodities. The scope of their operations has them involved in almost every aspect in the mining and production of natural resources.
BHP is not as cheap as the other miners. The forward P/E is higher than the others at 14.87 and it is trading much higher than its book value per share of $25.16. BHP in my opinion is a play on the global commodities sector. There isn't a commodity that the company doesn't explore for. The global outlook for the prices of gold, copper, oil, coal and iron ore will determine the direction for BHP stock (check out three things to love about BHP).
Overall these 5 miners are well-run organizations that pay attractive dividends. Their current yield is much higher than that of other sectors. There will be plenty of volatility in the stock prices as the market reacts to ever-changing commodity prices. Longer-term I think the prices of commodities are going higher and these are the 5 best stocks to own in this sector. For the patient investor, they can collect the dividend as they wait for price appreciation.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.