Investors are always on the prowl for high returns. They can look for this in the traditional places, of course, the Apples and the Amazons and the Googles, where shares appreciate at fast rates, or they can look at the Microsofts and Mastercards and JPMorgans, where steady share gains are paired with steady dividends. These are viable strategies. But sometimes, investors like to follow the roads less traveled.
The average dividend yield among stocks listed in the S&P 500 index is only 2%. This is – just slightly – higher than Treasury bond yields. But it’s also just an average. There are plenty of stocks with higher yields. Companies may reach those yields – of 7, or 9, or even 15% – for various reasons, but what they all have in common is a strong draw for investors.
We’ve used TipRanks’ Stock Screener tool to pull up some of these lesser-known, but profitable, dividend stocks. Setting the filters to show small-cap stocks with yields exceeding 5%, we narrowed the list from the full database of 6,500 stocks to just 86, a far more manageable number. Here are three that income-minded investors should take note of.
MVC Capital, Inc. (MVC)
We’ll start with business development company. MVC Capital holds a diverse portfolio of investments, which it uses to realize long-term growth for its own investors and shareholders. In recent years, the company has transitioned from a capital loss carry strategy to a yielding investment strategy, with an emphasis on dividend returns.
And it’s not just dividend returns from the company’s portfolio – MVC is a top performer in its niche at paying out dividends to investors. The company has a nine-year history of consistent, regular payments, without missing a quarter, and in recent years has been increasing the payout. The current dividend, at 17 cents quarterly, represents an annual payment of 68 cents per share and impressive yield of 7.12%. That’s 3.5x the S&P average.
MVC maintains its dividend with strong earnings. The company reported $8 million in total income for Q4 2019, up 35% year-over-year. Net operating income, at $3.1 million, was also up significantly – and more important, MVC has a dividend payout ratio of 100%, so all of that income was paid back to company investors.
Michael Diana, 4-star analyst with Maxim Group, looks ahead at MVC’s potential and writes, “Over the next four quarters, we expect: 1) a dividend yield of 7.4%, and 2) stock price appreciation of 40.5%, which should result in an estimated 12-month total return of about 48%. Beyond that timeframe, we expect MVC to grow its yield investments and raise its dividend further.”
In line with his bullish view, Diana gives MVC a Buy rating supported by a price target of $13. His target implies a solid upside potential of 36%. (To watch Diana’s track record, click here)
In agreement with Diana is Ladenburg analyst Christopher Nolan. Nolan wrote of the MVC’s portfolio, “Asset quality was steady with the same 2 credits on non-accrual and totaled 1.6% of the investment portfolio at cost.”
Nolan put an $11 target on MVC shares to back his Buy rating. This indicates an upside potential of 15% in the coming year. (To watch Nolan’s track record, click here)
All in all, shares in MVC are priced at just $9.55, a bargain for a stock with a 25% average upside potential. That potential is derived from the average price target of $12. With 2 Buy ratings and 1 Hold given in recent weeks, the analyst consensus on MVC is a Moderate Buy. (See MVC stock analysis on TipRanks)
Amplify Energy Corporation (AMPY)
Our next stock is in the energy sector. Amplify is an oil and natural gas exploration and drilling company. The bulk of the company’s operations are located in Texas and Louisiana, with additional production sites in Wyoming and the California offshore. Amplify is an ‘upstream’ company in the industry, meaning that its operations focus on directly extracting oil and gas resources from acquired properties.
Amplify has more than 1,400 active wells on its lands, and backs them up with another 1,00 well in various stages of development. In proven reserves, Amplify boasts over 900 billion cubic feet equivalent. Last year, the company reduced its competition by absorbing Midstate Petroleum in a merger-of-equals deal. The merged entity uses the Amplify name.
Most ‘dividend champs’ get that status through long-term, consistent payment. Amplify, however, only began paying out its dividend in Q3 of 2019, after its merger with Midstate. It commands attention, even though it is new, because of the yield. At over 15%, AMPY’s dividend yield is one of the best in the market. It’s a whopping ten times better than Treasury note yields, and 7.5x higher than the average dividend yield on the S&P 500 index.
Due to AMPY’s low share price, the dividend is modest – only 20 cents per quarter. That makes the annual payout 80 cents. So far, the company has made the payment twice, in September and December of 2019. The payout ratio, at 133%, may indicate long-term sustainability issues, but those are mitigated by the oil and gas industry’s ability to produce high cash flows.
Analyst Jeff Grampp, reviewing AMPY for Northland Securities, sees a bullish case here. He says of the stock, “We sense there is some investor skepticism about the sustainability of the dividend and believe that as the company proves it is sustainable, yield compression can occur. We estimate AMPY can fund its 2020 dividend through FCF down to an average ~$52/BBL WTI price…” Investors should note that WTI trended up from October through December, but slipped in January and now appears to have leveled out at $50. Oil volatility has been high in the past 12 months.
Grampp puts his money where his mouth his, giving AMPY a $10 price target to support a Buy rating. This target suggests a hefty upside potential of 91%. (To watch Grampp’s track record, click here)
Amplify’s two recent reviews are both Buy-side, making the consensus view of the stock a Moderate Buy. Shares are trading low, at just $5.21, and the average price target of $10.25 indicates room for 96% growth in the coming 12 months. (See Amplify stock analysis on TipRanks)
Hunt Companies Finance Trust (HCFT)
We’ll wrap up our look at dividend champions with Hunt Companies, a real estate investment trust (REIT). These companies make their profits through buying, owning, managing, and leasing combinations of commercial and investment properties, as well as financing customer mortgages and investing in mortgage backed securities. That latter niche is Hunt’s specialty – the company’s portfolio is focused on mortgage backed securities, loans, and related real estate investments.
A common feature of tax regulations required REITs to pay back the lion’s share of their earnings to investors, and most of them choose dividends as their payment vehicle of choice. The company manages this with a 7.5 cent quarterly payment, which annualizes to 30 cents – and a yield at a whopping 9.2%. HCFT has a history of adjusting the dividend to meet both tax regulations and sustainability issues, and the current payout ratio is an impressive 75%. Due to a strong US economic climate, the company has been able to grow the dividend over the past two years.
JMP Securities analyst Steven Delaney lays out a bullish case for HCFT, writing in his recent note on the stock, “We remain positive on shares of HCFT and believe the company is well positioned to take advantage of access to a larger CRE lending platform following the newly entered Management Agreement. While the company’s micro market cap and limited trading liquidity may restrict its investor audience, we believe the shares offer attractive potential upside…”
To demonstrate that potential upside, Delaney gives the stock a $4 price target, indicating confidence that the potential is 22%. He rates the stock a Buy, of course. (To watch Delaney’s track record, click here)
Delaney’s is the only recent review on HCFT – as he pointed out in his note, this is a micro-cap company of limited liquidity; it is a classic ‘under the radar’ investment. It is still worth looking at, however. With a dividend yield exceeding 9%, and a potential upside of 22%, the $3.26 current share price is a bargain that’s hard to beat. (See Hunt's price targets and analyst ratings on TipRanks)