2 High Dividend Stocks To Avoid, 1 To Buy

Includes: AINV, BX, OZM
by: Dividendinvestr

On Friday, February 24, the S&P 500 finally made its way past its 2011 peak. It finished the day at its highest level since June 2008. This is an important milestone of the financial markets - it could signify another rally. But, in the same token, it may be yet another earth shattering fluctuation. After the market had hit a high on April 29, 2011, it fell almost 20% until finally bottoming out on October 3. Right now the market is up 24% from that point, but who can say how long that will last? And, for those determined to take the long view, the S&P is up just 0.5% from its April high - so the money right really seems to be in playing these fluctuations.

That said, we took a look at the market to see which companies lost the most since the peak in April to see if there is any chance that these stocks have become so low priced as to prove to be a good investment.

Och-Ziff Capital Management Group (NYSE:OZM)

The first company on our list is Och-Ziff Capital Management Group. This $1.37 billion market cap company is one of the largest alternative asset managers in the world. Och-Ziff provides its services through a range of hedge funds and other alternative investment vehicles. It takes pride in its risk management skills and limited use of leverage, but that didn't stop it from losing almost 39% since the market peaked in April. That doesn't mean there is any love lost. Goldman Sachs gives Och-Ziff its top rating, citing its significant exposure to alternative asset classes as a major plus. Compass Point also recently initiated coverage for Och-Ziff at Buy.

Och-Ziff recently traded at $9.51 a share on a mean one-year target estimate of $12.03. It is priced low, at 6.8 times its 2013 forward earnings. According to Yahoo Finance, Och-Ziff's earnings are expected to increase by an average of 12.7% per annum over the next five years, compared to expectations of 8.8% for its industry. The company has had its ups and downs when it comes to its dividends. It paid a 4 cents quarterly dividend on February 16, down from 9 cents in November 17 and 14 cents August 11. Och-Ziff's dividend has ranged considerably, moving from a quarterly dividend as low as 2 cents a share on August 6 to a quarterly dividend as high as 71 cents a share on February 16, 2011. Right now, its forward annual dividend rate is 16 cents (1.60% yield) while its trailing dividend is 40 cents (4.10% yield).

Overall, we like Och-Ziff but we caution investors to buy this stock for its upside rather than its dividend. We think that the company is in a great position to explode, but its dividends are certainly not predictable. For investors looking to invest in this industry who want stable dividends, we recommend Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX).

Blackstone has had some volatility in its dividend, but not nearly to the extent Och-Ziff has. The company currently pays 88 cents (5.50% yield), which is less than the $1.20 yield offered in 2008 and 2009. Blackstone also offers comparable predicted upside - it recently traded at $15.80 a share on a mean one-year target estimate of $18.68 - and it is priced almost as low as Och-Ziff is, with a forward P/E of 7.45. Analysts predict that Blackstone's earnings will increase by 19.00% a year on average over the next five years. The people at Deutsche Bank seem to agree. They initiated coverage of "Buy" for Blackstone on February 1, 2012.

Apollo Investment Corp (NASDAQ:AINV)

Apollo Investment Corp is a business development company geared toward middle market companies, offering direct equity capital and other forms of financing. Apollo Investment lost 32% since the peak of the market in April, but it is actually priced well right now. Apollo Investment recently traded at $7.06 a share, versus a mean one-year target estimate of $8.60. The company also pays an 80 cents dividend (11.30% dividend yield) and is priced at 8.5 times its forward earnings. On the downside, it has a low earnings growth estimate. Analysts estimate Apollo Investment's earnings will increase by 5.0% a year on average over the next five years, versus 12.64% for its industry.

It seems like some people in the industry have already written Apollo Investment off - both David Dreman's Dreman Value Management and Joel Greenblatt's Gotham Asset Management sold their positions in the company during the fourth quarter. Others are more optimistic - Barclays Capital initiated coverage of "equal weight" on February 24.

For our part, we are divided. On the one hand, it is priced well, but on the other it is a risky stock. Their portfolio is composed of highly illiquid assets, so the stock will be hit hard if there is another recession. Their dividend payments aren't also safe; they just cut the quarterly dividend payments by 30%. This isn't an average plain vanilla dividend stock. So, we don't recommend it to conservative investors.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.