By Matt Doiron
Sometimes dividend yields can look attractive because the company's stock price has dropped. However, they can also be a concern if the lower stock price is tied to poorer business performance, which could in turn, lead to dividend cuts. It's also generally a good idea to review a history of insider purchases and sales -- particularly purchases, as they tend to be more predictive of future performance -- when looking at stocks. Here are five stocks thatpay high dividend yields, are at least flat year to date, and have seen at least one insider purchase in the last three months:
Aldo Zucaro, CEO of Old Republic International Corporation (ORI), bought about 10,000 shares of the company in August 2012. Old Republic is an insurer whose products include asset insurance (auto, marine, etc.) and specialty coverage. It is unprofitable when looking at the last four quarters, but grew its revenue slightly in the second quarter of 2012. Additionally, sell-side analyst consensus is for positive earnings per share in 2013. As a result, its forward P/E is 14. Old Republic pays a dividend yield of 7.4%. While this is very impressive from an income perspective, in terms of value, we would want to see better results from the company. Billionaire Israel Englander's Millennium Management increased its stake in Old Republic by 63% during the second quarter, and billionaire Steve Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors also bought shares.
AT&T Inc. (T) saw a large purchase in late July from Board member Scott Ford. Some degree of buying would be expected, as Ford had just joined the Board in June, but he bought over $2 million worth of the stock. The enormous AT&T, with a market cap of over $200 billion, pays a generous 4.9% dividend yield. AT&T is also somewhat popular with hedge fund managers, as billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller initiated a position in the stock during the second quarter. Cliff Asness's AQR Capital Management also had a large position in the stock. At 14 times forward earnings estimates -- though this anticipates strong earnings growth -- it could be a more attractive investment than fellow telecom Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), which trades at a premium to AT&T based on its forward P/E of 16, or the unprofitable Sprint Nextel Corporation (S).
A Board member at Integrys Energy Group, Inc. (TEG), Michelle Collins, bought shares of the $4.3 billion market cap natural gas and electric utility. It's not particularly surprising to see a utility with a 5.0% dividend yield, and the company trades at 20 times trailing earnings. Integrys did see a large pop in its earnings last quarter compared to a year ago, but this came off a decline in revenue, and we're not sure how sustainable this growth might be (and of course, it is a utility, so growth opportunities are likely limited). We don't think it is as good a buy as some of these other companies. However, Renaissance Technologies (founded by now-billionaire Jim Simons) bought shares during the second quarter and David Harding's Winton Capital Management did as well.
Bruce Nicholson, who is on the Board of Directors at DTE Energy Company (DTE), invested about $100,000 in the company in late August. DTE is a Michigan-based electric and natural gas utility. As perhaps might be expected from its geographic focus, revenue and earnings were both down last quarter versus a year earlier. It pays a 4.1% dividend yield, and carries a trailing P/E multiple of 16. We'd like to see the company halt its decline in net income, and even if it can get to no-growth, its P/E seems a bit high. Billionaire Glenn Dubin's Highbridge Capital Management owned about 50,000 shares at the end of June, but this was about half as many as it had owned three months earlier . Adage Capital Management was another notable hedge fund that was invested in the stock.
Also making our list is Midwestern electric and natural gas utility Alliant Energy Corporation (LNT), with Board member Patrick Allen buying in. The dividend yield is good here as well, at 4.1%. Like Integrys, Alliant showed slightly lower revenue, but considerably stronger earnings last quarter than it did in the second quarter of 2011. It is slightly cheaper than Integrys, however, at a trailing P/E of 18. Wall Street analysts expect considerably better numbers next year, and so Alliant trades at 14 times forward earnings estimates. Our impression is that it is the best of the utilities on this list, although out of the companies we've discussed, we're most interested in taking a closer look at AT&T. Billionaire David Shaw's D.E. Shaw liked Alliant stock during the second quarter, reporting about 260,000 shares in its portfolio at the end of June. Tim Flannery's Copia Capital, meanwhile, had sold most of the shares it had owned at the end of March over the next three months.
Disclosure: I am long T.