By: Jake Mann
To some investors, the large-cap stalwarts are the only companies they look at to find growth, income or value. As our research on the market beating potential of hedge funds' small-cap picks shows (discover the secrets here), though, there are plenty of other places to find good names in the stock market. For dividend-seekers in particular, there are a few high-yield stocks that could conceivably offer a dividend hike in the near future.
Let's take a look at the most promising ones in the mid-cap space in particular. Each sports a dividend yield of at least 3% and has one of the 20 lowest payout ratios among all mid-cap companies. Within this upper echelon, there are four names that stand out in particular because they also have stellar earnings growth prospects.
Of all the companies with market caps between $2 billion and $10 billion, Golar LNG (GLNG) has the lowest payout ratio we could find, offering up just 18% of its earnings as dividends. The company, which operates liquefied natural gas carriers, pays a dividend yield just under 5%, and growth in both cash flows and earnings is fairly strong. Operating cash doubled last year and in Golar's upcoming fiscal year, Wall Street expects earnings to grow by 107% - more than twice the company's annual rate of growth it averaged over the past half-decade.
Secular growth in the domestic LNG and natural gas markets is the primary reason for Golar's promising positioning, and despite the top-flight yield, great growth prospects and low payout ratio, shares trade at a ridiculously low 3 times trailing EPS. Jana Partners and Cliff Asness' AQR Capital were buying this stock in bulk last 13F filing season - all we're saying is Golar is worth giving a look.
American National Insurance
In the same light, American National Insurance (ANAT) is another mid cap that most dividend investors probably haven't heard of. The multiline insurance company pays a dividend yield just above 3% at a 34% payout ratio, below similarly sized peers like Hanover Insurance Group (THG) and United Fire Group (UFCS), which pay out 55% and 36% of earnings as dividends, respectively.
American National hasn't missed a quarterly dividend in almost a quarter century, and payments have more than doubled over this time. Three earnings beats in its last four quarters and a generally healthy balance sheet indicates that there's enough fiscal health here to expect continued dividend growth into the future. While you probably wouldn't put it up there in the same category as the larger dividend stalwarts, the market sure has chased its yield in 2013. Shares are up a whopping 42.7% year-to-date.
Electric utility company IdaCorp (IDA), meanwhile, is in a remarkably similar spot as American National. This is a stock that's not followed by the masses, but it's up by double-digit returns in 2013, pays a dividend yield north of 3%, sports a payout ratio (39%) far below industry averages (60%), and the hits go on. IdaCorp has beaten Wall Street's earnings expectations in five consecutive quarters and sell-side analysts predict solid (for the utilities industry) 4% to 5% annual EPS growth over the next half-decade.
One group of investors that has been paying attention to IdaCorp's beauty as an income investment is hedge funds. We wrote about the stock back in September, when we mentioned that hedge fund interest in IdaCorp spiked by 57% in the last round of 13F filings with strong support from billionaires David Harding and Paul Tudor Jones (who both bought the stock over this time). At reasonable multiples across the board, there's nothing that scares us about IdaCorp's valuation, so needless to say, it might not be too late to think about it if you're looking for a good utility mid cap.
Last but certainly not least, Gannett (GCI) is a name that has not endeared itself to long-term investors. Shares of the publishing company have lost two-thirds of their value over the past ten years as its industry has shifted from print to online content, but anyone investing on the dip would have returned over 40% year-to-date and 100% over the past five years. Warren Buffett is one investor who owned Gannett throughout this recovery before selling in the second quarter of this year, but the dividend yield of 3% at a payout ratio near 40% still warrants dividend-seekers' consideration.
Wall Street, additionally, holds a price target that represents a 10% upside from current levels and analysts expect earnings to grow at a quicker annual rate (8%) over the next five years than peers like The New York Times (NYT), Journal Communications (JRN) and just about every other company in the publishing industry that's not The Washington Post (WPO). Gannett has made 18 consecutive quarterly dividends and has upped its payments by four-fold since 2009. Further dividend expansion isn't unreasonable to expect, so don't let the secular decline lead you to skip over this stock in your search for yield with growth potential.