By: Roger Conrad
Everyone loves high yields. Not everyone, however, is willing to live with what often accompanies them: above-average volatility and sometimes elevated risks to the dividend itself.
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That’s a lesson many investors are learning in mid-2012, just as others did in 2010 and 2011. And with the memory of 2008-09 still fresh, it’s not hard to see how selling begets more selling, as assumptions grow that something is wrong with the underlying business, even if all the news and numbers say otherwise.
The past few years’ trading is rife with examples of how stocks of first-rate companies sold off in a panic, only to fully recover later. Those who assumed the worst were effectively churned out of what were otherwise solid positions, usually at abysmal prices.
Examples of real blow-ups–when the business really did come apart and there was no recovery–have been relatively rare.
But quite naturally those are the cases investors remember. As a result, many now simply take for granted that there’s always fire where there’s smoke.
And no numbers, favorable analyst opinions, insider buying or soothing words from management will convince them otherwise, at least so long as a stock is losing ground.
The upshot is only a handful of income investors are emotionally capable of capitalizing on value in this market. And the result–just as in mid-2010 and mid-2011–is that there are a growing number of bargain-priced high-yield stocks whose only sin (at least so far) is they’ve sold off.
Below I focus on couple of stocks yielding 8 percent and up that are generally unloved by investors right now but that have recently demonstrated themselves to be more than just cheaply priced.
There are no guarantees in a market and economy like this one. But if anything represents a value to dividend investors now, it’s these two stocks.
Note that these stocks are not interest-rate sensitive but will follow investor perception of the underlying companies’ prospects. The link between all dividend-paying stocks and interest rates is still broken.
It’s crystal clear that traditional copper landlines are going away faster than almost anyone predicted, myself included. Not every communications company, however, is equally exposed to the trend.
Shares of Consolidated Communications (NSDQ: CNSL) and Windstream Corp (NYSE: WIN) have been hammered recently by worries they’ll go the way of Otelco (NYSE: OTT) and other dividend cutters.
These fears were further stoked when Consolidated issued an eight-year bond at 11 percent interest to finance its merger with SureWest Communications (NSDQ: SURW), while Windstream posted lower revenue and cash flow from renegotiating contracts with customers absorbed from its Paetec merger.
Both companies, however, posted strong first-quarter free cash flows that backed up dividends, Consolidated with a payout ratio of just 56.9 percent and Windstream at 63.5 percent.
Both rely on enterprise and broadband revenue for more than two-thirds of cash flow, limiting exposure to the declining traditional phone business and the Federal Communications Commission’s rollback of the Universal Services Fund. Traditional phone losses slowed to just 3.7 percent at Consolidated during the quarter and a similarly low rate at Windstream.
Both companies’ revenues did decline during the quarter, Consolidated’s by 1.4 percent, Windstream’s by 0.5 percent. Management, however, is still sticking to guidance for continued revenue and cash flow improvement the rest of the year. And at current yields of 10 percent-plus, the bar of expectations is extremely low. Check out my free High-Dividend Stocks report for more high-yield picks.