Markets continued their upward trend this week, gaining ground since the November 3 vote. There is an optimistic view that politics will settle into a more normal pattern with a new Administration.
Even so, investors have been wary this past autumn – as there is plenty to be wary about. The coronavirus has started a comeback with the advent of cooler weather, and the political uncertainty that surrounded the election has left the status of further economic stimulus packages in limbo.
It’s times like these that investors start taking a renewed interest in dividend stocks. These are the classic defensive stocks, and for good reason: a reliable dividend keeps the income flowing, no matter what the markets do.
Wall Street analysts have chimed in – and they are recommending high-yield dividend stocks for investors looking to find protection for their portfolio. Here, we’ll take a look at three stocks that fit a profile -- a dividend yield that gives at least 10%, and a Strong Buy rating from the analyst community.
Stellus Capital (SCM)
Stellus Capital offers capital solutions (read: debt financing) for companies in the lower mid-market range. These are companies that may have difficulty accessing capital through large banks; Stellus shoulders the higher risk as an investment opportunity. The capital company’s portfolio includes 67 companies, $1.6 billion in assets under management, and over $6 billion in total funds invested.
Stellus has been raising its dividend payment this year. The next dividend has already been declared for December, and shows an effective increase to 31 cents per common share. This comes from combining the regular 25 cent payment with a special 6-cent dividend, and after the company paid out 25 cents per share in the previous two quarters. Counting the regular dividend, the payment annualizes to $1 per common share, and gives a yield of 10.91%.
Writing from Raymond James, analyst Robert Dodd says, “Core earnings covered the base dividend in 3Q20, and a strong spillover position should cushion the dividend in 2021. We continue to view the risk /reward attractively."
The analyst added, "The SCM pipeline looks robust, with ~10 portfolio companies going through various stages of due diligence. Repayments in 4Q20 could be as high as $30M - with a modest positive impact to NAV from exits above fair value marks at 3Q20.”
To this end, Dodd rates SCM shares an Outperform (i.e. Buy) along with a $11 price target. This figure implies a 17% upside from current levels. (To watch Dodd’s track record, click here)
Overall, Stellus’ Strong Buy analyst consensus rating is based on 4 reviews, including 3 Buys and 1 Hold. The stock is selling for $9.43 and its average price target of $10.17 suggests it has a one-year upside potential of ~8%. (See SCM stock analysis on TipRanks)
WhiteHorse Finance (WHF)
Next up is WhiteHorse Finance, another BDC. WhiteHorse’s focus is on small-cap companies, valued at $50 million to $350 million, and WHF’s investments are typically in the $10 million to $50 million range. WhiteHorse’s portfolio totals more than $595 million.
A better outlook for the future, based on earnings recovery, has given a firm foundation to dividend payments, and WhiteHorse has kept up its 35.5 cents regular dividend. Combined with a 12.5 cent special dividend, this makes the most recent payment 48 cents per common share. The yield is a sky-high 12.29%.
Oppenheimer analyst Chris Kotowski is upbeat about WhiteHorse, noting “WHF reported 3Q20 core net investment income (NII) of $0.38/share versus our $0.32 estimate and consensus' $0.29E. The bottom line was boosted by an interest recovery, but what encouraged us most was both growth and improvement in asset quality. $58.3M of funding activity was only partially offset by only $26.5M of repayments, driving ~8.8% linked-quarter growth in investments alongside mark appreciation."
The 5-star analyst added, "Management seemed optimistic about the outlook for loan growth, saying that it was perhaps the best environment they had seen since 2012–2013, and they clearly have the capacity to put capital to work. The current gross leverage of 0.94x (and net 0.87x) sits below management's 1.00–1.25x target leverage, leaving ample room for growth in coming quarters amidst a strong investment pipeline."
As a result, Kotowski gives the stock an Outperform (i.e. Buy) rating, and his $15 price target implies a robust 29% upside for the year ahead. (To watch Kotowski’s track record, click here)
Overall, WhiteHorse has a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, with 3 buy-side reviews on record. The stock is currently priced at $11.65 and its $13.25 average price target suggests it has a one-year upside of 14%. (See WHF stock analysis on TipRanks)
Capital Southwest Corporation (CSWC)
Last but not least is Capital Southwest, another Texas-based company in the business development sector. CSWC focuses on lending and credit options for mid-market companies. Capital Southwest boasts a portfolio featuring $664 million invested into 69 companies, and has over $150 million in liquidity available.
Revenues have been recovering since going negative in Q1, at the height of the corona crisis. Sequential gains in both Q1 and Q2 have brought quarterly revenues to $21 million, while earnings in Q3 showed a strong spike to 45 cents per share, the highest value in over two years.
Rising earnings have allowed Capital Southwest to keep up its history of reliable dividend payments. The company raised its dividend going into 2020, and has maintained the 51-cent payment all year. The 10.5% yield is more than 4x higher than the average found among financial sector peer companies, bringing CSWC to the attention of dividend investors.
"Overall, we think results for the quarter were strong and that Capital Southwest is one of the most attractive ways to gain exposure to lower-middle-market direct originations. We highlight improving credit quality, strong portfolio growth, a solid pipeline of deal flow, sustainable core/supplemental dividends and management’s focus on expenses as reasons we think the stock is positioned to outperform," Ryan opined.
All in all, CSWC has a Strong Buy rating from the analyst consensus, with 3 recent Buy reviews and 1 Hold. Shares have an average price target of $15.67, which is almost flat compared to the current trading price. The real return here is in the dividend. (See CSWC stock analysis at TipRanks)