By Serkan Unal
Emulating insider purchases can generate alpha over time relative to benchmarks, according to academic studies (read more about the research on this investment strategy here). Investors who pursue this strategy generally assume that corporate insiders have an intimate knowledge of their businesses and industries, and are thus better equipped to make informed decisions about the appropriate timing of investments in the stocks of their companies. Still, this strategy should not be followed blindly, but should involve an additional, thorough analysis of the fundamentals and prospects of each individual stock with insider buying. With this in mind, below is a quick glance at four dividend-paying stocks with yields above 2% that have seen meaningful insider buying recently.
General Electric Company (GE), an industrial conglomerate, has recently been struggling with flat revenues, although its orders backlog continues to break records. Despite the near-term revenue woes, most notably the plunging sales of wind and gas turbines, the company has the potential for long-term growth, driven by its aviation, healthcare, and energy segments. With substantial cash on hand following its sale of the remaining NBC Universal stake, the company is pursuing accretive acquisitions, as evident in the recent bid for oil pump maker, Lufkin Industries Inc. (LUFK). The company's long-term goal is to achieve an industrial earnings mix of about 70% (currently the share is 55%) and long-term earnings and cash flow growth above those of its peers. However, the company's lackluster industrial earnings growth has prompted JPMorgan analysts to call the stock "dead money near term." GE did slash its dividend back in 2009; however, after raising it by 90%, cumulatively, since then, the company now sees the payment of the dividend as its number one priority (check out the relevant presentation slides [pdf] from the recent Annual Shareholder Meeting). GE is trading at 13.6x forward earnings.
On April 24, William G. Beattie, one of the company's directors, bought 10,000 shares of GE at an average price of $21.80 per share. The company's shares are currently trading at $22.15 a share. In the fourth quarter, the stock was popular with billionaires Ken Fisher and D.E. Shaw.
American Campus Communities Inc. (ACC), the largest U.S. developer, owner, and manager of student housing communities, pays a competitive dividend yield of 3.1% on a payout ratio of 56% of its 2013 FFO per share, based on the guidance midpoint. ACC has particularly strong growth prospects due to continued robust core growth, aggressive growth through acquisitions, and strong development pipeline. This REIT grew its FFO by 4.3% last year to $1.95 per diluted share. This year, benefiting from last year's accretive acquisitions of Campus Acquisitions portfolio and 19 student housing properties from Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, LP affiliates, ACC expects to grow its FFO by between 21.5% and 26.2%. The REIT has a strong same-store wholly owned occupancy of 97.6% as of the end of March 2013. ACC is trading at 18.3x its forward (2013) FFO.
Two insiders purchased ACC shares on April 26. Steven G. Dawson, one of the company's directors, purchased a total of 7,700 shares at an average price of $42.77 per share. Another insider, Albert Jonathan Graf, ACC's Executive VP and CFO, acquired a total of 1,800 shares at an average price of $42.50 a share. The stock is currently trading at $44.36 a share. At the end of the December quarter, Citadel's Ken Griffin held nearly a million ACC shares.
City Holding Co. (CHCO), a small-cap bank holding company for City National Bank of West Virginia, pays a high yield of 4.0% on a payout ratio of 51% of the current-year EPS estimate. The bank sustained its payout during the 2008-2009 financial crisis and raised it twice since then, including by 5.7% this month. CHCO operates in relatively low growth markets; however, its earnings growth has been supported by share repurchases despite the weak economic backdrop over the past few years. The company is expanding through acquisitions, including the acquisition of Community Bank and Virginia Savings Bancorp, Inc. over the past 12 months. Additions of these two banks to CHCO's portfolio have helped push up its net interest margin, which has boosted net interest income. Last quarter, the bank's ROA was 0.96% and Return on Tangible Equity was 11.3%. For years, both of these metrics have been consistently higher than those of the bank's peers. CHCO is trading at a price-to-book of 1.8, slightly above the bank's five-year historical average of 1.7.
On April 26, Charles W. Fairchilds, the company's independent director, acquired 1,000 shares of CHCO at an average price of $37.83 per share. CHCO shares are currently trading at $37.11 per share. In the December quarter, small-cap value investor Chuck Royce held a stake in CHCO (see Royce's top picks here).
Philip Morris International (PM), the international marketer of cigarette brands such as Marlboro and L&M, pays a dividend yield of 3.6% on a payout ratio of 60% of the current-year EPS estimate. The company is characterized by robust organic growth, good brand performance, and strong pricing power. However, in its latest financial report, PM missed estimates due to larger-than-expected foreign exchange headwinds and lower volumes of cigarettes sold (due to weak EU sales and a tax increase in the Philippines). The currency headwinds also prompted the company to lower its full-year 2013 EPS estimate. Still, the company's EPS excluding the unfavorable currency effect is expected to grow by 10%-to-12% this year. Moreover, strong buyback activity - with some $13.65 billion in the repurchase authorization remaining for another two and half years - will continue to buttress EPS growth. For income investors, this stock offers a good combination of dividend growth and yield at reasonable valuation. Note that due to a higher long-term EPS growth than its peers', the stock is priced at a premium to its industry.
Aside from two recent insider sales (check them out here), on April 26, there was an insider purchase of PM shares. Sergio Marchionne, the company's director, purchased 1,000 shares at an average price of $94.77 per share. The stock is currently trading at $95.67 per share. Among hedge funds, in the December quarter, the stock was popular with Tom Russo (Gardner Russo & Gardner) and Ken Fisher.