Once the largest company in the world, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) has come under pressure, with falling oil prices and languishing production volumes. But patient investors can take some solace in knowing that while Exxon has ambitious plans to bolster production in the coming years, it will pay you a solid dividend yielding 4.1% annually at current prices while you wait.
But Exxon isn't the only high-yield dividend stock our market has to offer. To that end, we asked three top Motley Fool investors to each find a dividend stock that pays even more than Exxon does. Read on to learn why they like Retail Opportunity Investments (NASDAQ: ROIC), Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A)(NYSE: RDS-B), and Seagate (NASDAQ: STX).
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Take advantage of this (retail) opportunity while you can
Steve Symington (Retail Opportunity Investments): This isn't the first time I've pitched Retail Opportunity Investments as a more generous dividend payer than the aforementioned oil titan. But the last time I did so in October 2018, I was hoping the shopping-center REIT, with its 4.4% annual yield at the time, was nearing the end of an extended hiatus in property acquisitions given difficult market conditions.
Alas, those tough conditions persisted through the end of 2018. But Retail Opportunity investments has stayed busy in the meantime by disposing of non-core properties and improving its balance sheet, even as it ended 2018 with a company-record 97.7% portfolio lease rate. What's more, during the fourth-quarter conference call two weeks ago, CEO Stuart Tanz added that "the uncertainty in the acquisition market is subsiding such that we could see off-market opportunities become more favorable as we move through the year." As such, Tanz says the company could be poised to make $50 million or more in new shopping-center acquisitions this year, resuming its longer-term trend of steady top- and bottom-line growth.
With Retail Opportunity Investments' dividend now yielding 4.6%, I think patient investors who buy now will be more than happy with their decision when it acquisitions resume in earnest.
Another oil option, with an even bigger yield
Reuben Gregg Brewer (Royal Dutch Shell): It's not that hard to find a yield that's higher than Exxon's 4.1%. What's hard is finding a higher yield that's worth buying. One that stands out in the energy space is Royal Dutch Shell. Like Exxon, it's a global integrated oil and gas company. Also like Exxon, it's been shifting toward natural gas in recent years, viewing natural gas as a key transition fuel as the world migrates to cleaner energy sources. But Shell sports a 7.4% yield.
There's one notable drawback with Shell. It has historically relied more heavily on debt, which can limit flexibility during difficult periods -- which aren't exactly uncommon in the volatile oil and gas industry. For example, long-term debt makes up around 20% of Shell's capital structure, versus less than half of that for Exxon. Offsetting this, Shell tends to carry much more cash on its balance sheet. It has roughly $20 billion of cash, versus Exxon's $6 billion. Still, a high debt level is a primary reason Shell's dividend hasn't increased since 2014.
While limited dividend growth is a clear negative, Shell stands out from Exxon in one very important way. It has taken a more aggressive approach toward adjusting its carbon footprint, including buying electric auto recharging stations and investing in electric generation assets. The goal is to keep scaling the electric side until it's on an equal footing with the company's oil and refining operations. If that sounds like a desirable direction to you, then Shell's big yield will probably be far more enticing than Exxon's. Dividend growth, meanwhile, is likely to resume, assuming Shell's shifting business mix pans out as expected.
A patient player in a misunderstood market
Leo Sun (Seagate Technology): Seagate, the world's second largest hard disk drive (HDD) maker, trades at nine times forward earnings and pays a forward dividend yield of 5.5%. The stock trades at such a low multiple because investors are worried that flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) will gradually cannibalize sales of HDDs, slower enterprise spending will throttle its sales of HDDs to cloud customers, and sluggish sales of PCs will exacerbate the pain.
Those are all valid points, but sales of HDDs won't simply disappear. The lower prices of HDDs still make them preferable to pricier SSDs in the data-center market, and Seagate is selling more high-capacity drives (i.e., over 1 terabyte) to reduce its dependence on the consumer PC market.
Seagate is insulated from the current downturn in memory prices, because it generates less than 10% of its revenue from flash-based devices. Its main rival, Western Digital (NASDAQ: WDC), generates about half of its revenue from flash-based devices.
Analysts expect Seagate's revenue and earnings to fall 8% and 16%, respectively, this year. Those growth rates look dismal, but they're much better than WD's projected revenue and earnings declines of 19% and 63%, respectively, for the current year.
Seagate's growth is expected to stabilize next year. The stock probably won't rally anytime soon, but its low valuation and high yield should limit its downside potential. Seagate hasn't raised its dividend since 2015, but it spent just 42% of its free cash flow on its dividend over the past 12 months -- which gives it ample room for future increases.
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Leo Sun has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Reuben Gregg Brewer owns shares of ExxonMobil. Steve Symington owns shares of Retail Opportunity Investments. The Motley Fool is short shares of Western Digital. The Motley Fool recommends Retail Opportunity Investments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.