After five years of a bull run and the nearly 30% jump in the S&P 500 last year, it is becoming increasingly tough to find value in dividend stocks. All the usual suspects, energy and consumer staples, are trading well over their long-term price multiples. There are still some good values but you need to look for stocks with headline risks that have driven prices downward.
These stocks with short-term risks can still be good investments if they have strong long-term growth drivers. Beyond the short-term value, I like to see yields of at least 4% and a price well-under the fair value as assessed by Morningstar.
Dividends at a discount
Earnings for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (NYSE:POT) are set to fall 22% this year and possibly further next year on weak potash prices. Shares fell almost 24% late July when Russia's Uralkali signaled that it would break with Belaruskali of Belarus and seek volume pricing in potash. The Canpotex consortium; led by Potash Corporation, Mosaic (NYSE:MOS) and Agrium (NYSE:AGU), still operates under oligopoly pricing.
Potash recently announced an 18% cut in its workforce due to the outlook for lower prices. There is still a chance for a reconciliation, at least in part, of the oligopoly pricing structure between Uralkali and Belaruskali. The price-over-volume deal has benefited global players for decades and there is little to be gained from breaking the deal.
Even if earnings fall to $2.03 per share in 2014, the shares would still be relatively cheap at 16 times. This is well under the company's five-year average of 18.8 times earnings and Morningstar calculates a fair value of $38 per share. Potash Corp is the world's largest producer of potash fertilizer and the remaining oligopoly structure gives the company a strong economic moat. With the global population reaching eight billion and meat consumption growing in emerging markets, crop yields need to increase significantly to continue to feed the hungry masses.
Shares have rebounded somewhat since July but have a long way to go and shareholders get a yield of 4.2% while they wait.
Shares of Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) ended flat in 2013 as it seems that new packaging laws and anti-smoking campaigns might actually be catching up to the cigarette industry. The industry has been fighting a European tobacco products directive since 2012. Under the proposed law, 75% of packaging must be covered by graphic warnings along with a ban on menthol and slims. The proposal follows similar laws in Thailand, Uruguay and Australia and could hit brand identity.
Smoking has been under the gun for decades and volume is actually down in some developed markets. Philip Morris International is well-positioned in the emerging markets and gaining market share in the tougher environment. Regulators are not likely to let any new entrants into the market and the company carries some of the strongest brands in the industry.
Morningstar has a fair value ($93) just 7% above the current price but the shares pay a strong 4.3% yield and the company returned more than $6.5 billion to shareholders through its buyback program last year. Philip Morris International and the Altria Group (NYSE:MO) recently announced a technology sharing and rights deal to sell "reduced-risk" tobacco products including electronic cigarettes. Altria will provide Philip Morris with an exclusive license to sell its ecigs outside the United States while Altria will sell two of the international retailer's products in the States.
HCP Incorporated (NYSE:HCP) surprised the markets in October with the termination of James Flaherty as Chief Executive. Lauralee Martin, formerly the Chief Executive of the Americas division for Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL), has replaced Flaherty though the board has been relatively quiet about the change. This has compounded the weakness in REITs due to rising rates and caused the shares to underperform the Vanquard REIT Fund (NYSEARCA:VNQ) by 6.4% since October. The management change does not worry me. Martin is a respected manager and the company has some serious cyclical tailwinds ahead.
More than 10,000 people reach the age of retirement every day in the United States and the trend is set to increase through 2030. While investment in healthcare assets has followed the trend upwards, there is still a decade or more worth of potential.
Morningstar has a $50 fair value on the shares, more than a third above the current level, and investors receive a 5.8% yield until it gets there. I like HCP not only for the upside potential but for the stock's ability to diversify my own retirement risks with assets that will benefit from higher healthcare costs.
All three of these companies have seen their shares underperform the general market last year by a wide margin. Take advantage of uncertainty and the short-term fear in the shares to buy into these long-term growth stories. All three companies pay strong yields and have a history of returning cash to shareholders.
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.