Income investors often search for stocks for long-term dividends and buybacks to round out their portfolios. The obvious starting point to locate these types of investments is by looking at yield. This tells you the percentage of that company’s share price paid out in dividends. It offers a touchpoint for investors, but it’s an imperfect measure. First, it’s backward-looking— so it measures the previous dividend payments against the current share price. Second, it can be artificially inflated by a low share price. Typically, a low share price reflects low confidence in the market and could suggest the company’s financials aren’t strong enough to cover its expected payouts. Dividends aren’t guaranteed and are often the first thing to hit the chopping block when financial trouble strikes.
There are a few ways to work out whether a company’s got the financial fortitude to continue paying and expanding its dividend. The first is to look at the payout ratio, which compares a company’s dividend payouts with its net income. A number greater than 1 means the company pays investors more than it makes, suggesting those dividend payments are unsustainable. Investors can also look at cash flow compared to dividend payouts to understand how difficult it is for a particular company to cover or increase its dividend payments.
Finally, income investors may want to consider the top stocks for dividends and buybacks. Both dividends and buybacks are ways that companies return cash to shareholders. The latter offers a bit more flexibility. Whereas companies have to cut their dividend if times are tight, buyback programs offer a way to return excess cash to shareholders on a one-off basis. Buying back shares reduces the number on the market, often leading to a bump in the share price as a result. It means shareholders automatically own a larger chunk of the company.
Stocks for Long-Term Dividends and Buybacks: Pfizer (PFE)
The pharmaceutical sector is a good place to find some of the top stocks for dividends and buybacks. Thanks to its early vaccine candidate, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) was a huge winner during the pandemic. The group benefitted from an enormous cash windfall from vaccine sales, which have now dropped off a cliff with the pandemic behind us. But the group put the cash to good use, beefing up investment in research & development. This investment has set the group up to navigate difficult waters ahead as some of its blockbuster drugs lose their patent protection.
The group pays out a dividend yield just shy of 4.5%, making it a good choice for income investors. The group’s payout ratio is less than 50%, which means there should be plenty of wiggle room as management copes with the more challenging environment ahead. Pfizer stock is lowly valued compared to some of its Pharma peers, reflecting uncertainty about the group’s ability to push out new drugs to plug the gap left by falling vaccine sales. However, Pfizer has a strong history of successful drug development, so this could be a suitable entry point.
Another sector to find stocks for long-term dividends and any buybacks is communications. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is no exception, with a dividend yield of over 7%. Some of this is due to a 30% share price decline over the past year. That reflects the market’s concern about Verizon’s ability to compete in the mobile market. Nowadays, it’s difficult to distinguish your mobile offering, and customer switching costs are low, so wireless companies compete mostly on price, eroding margins. Plus, the group’s had to shell out to update its 5G network, an expensive endeavor thanks to pricey spectrum licenses.
However, there’s a lot to like about Verizon. The group’s one of the world’s largest telecoms, and its model is strong— after the initial outlay to set up infrastructure, each new customer is virtually cost-less to add. Now that the largest outlay for 5G is behind us, Verizon should start gaining momentum. Its dividend payout is relatively high at 71%, but there’s still some breathing room, particularly if things pick up. Ultimately broadband is a must-have these days, meaning even as times get tougher, consumers will continue to pay to stay connected, so Verizon’s in a strong position to weather an oncoming economic storm.
With a yield of less than 1%, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) doesn’t often make the list of top dividend and buyback stocks. However, the latter part of that phrase makes the tech giant a candidate. Apple’s business is a sprawling cash cow, meaning management often has a surplus of excess cash that can’t be effectively reinvested into the business. The group has a history of sending that cash straight back to investors, boosting share prices, and increasing ownership for those who continue to hold shares.
The group’s most recent buyback scheme is expected to reach $90bn.
There’s reason to think this won’t be the last cash injection investors see, either. Apple’s strong brand power is backed by a strong management team that seamlessly transitioned alongside consumer preferences. The result has been Apple’s ability to charge a premium for its offerings, boosting margins and supercharging cash flow. The group’s also made a foray into streaming, albeit slowly. This part of the business, which offers everything from films and tv shows to music and on-demand fitness, will be a strong growth engine as it continues to gain traction.
On the date of publication, Marie Brodbeck did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.