Investing for income usually results in quieter, and lower-risk, investment strategies. The best dividend stocks tend to be more mature and lower-growth, which is why they distribute cash to shareholders rather than reinvesting it in their businesses. The goal of most income investors is to protect principal by buying quality companies who will grow dividends over time, rather than chasing ‘hot’ stocks with higher risk. So you don’t tend to hear about high-risk dividend stocks.
Just about the worst thing that can happen to an income investor is a dividend cut. Such a cut provides a ‘double whammy’ — both lowering the income stream and (usually) leading to principal loss as well. Investors in stocks like Frontier Communications (NASDAQ:FTR), Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT), and General Electric (NYSE:GE) have suffered through that misery in recent years. Most income investors, as a result, try to avoid risk and focus on safe, stable payers.
All that said, there are some high-risk dividend stocks that provide both income and some speculative spice to an investor’s portfolio. These 7 stocks all fit that bill. For the most part, the dividends are safe — at least for now. All 7 have longer-term risks, but also the potential for intriguing rewards. For those looking for yield and perhaps a bit more excitement, these risky dividend stocks are worth considering.
7 High-Risk Dividend Stocks: Ford Motor Company (F)
Dividend Yield: 6.0%
But I thought the move to pretty much end North American sedan production was an intriguing one from a capital and operating expense standpoint. And F stock now has pulled back to a 6% yield — and its lowest levels in almost six years. That yield could be at risk amid increasing speculation that the dividend will be cut in 2019.
Investors need to have their eyes open here. Competition is a real concern, whether Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is a success or not in electric vehicles. “Peak auto” predictions still may prove correct. A heavy debt load and still-substantial pension expense mean a 7x forward P/E ratio isn’t as cheap as it looks. But at the lows, Ford stock may well be worth taking a shot.
7 High-Risk Dividend Stocks: Steelcase (SCS)
Dividend Yield: 3.9%
Ford CEO Hackett’s old company, office furniture manufacturer Steelcase (NYSE:SCS), has seen some struggles of its own. In North America, “open office” trends are decreasing demand for Steelcase products and allowing smaller, private firms to take market share. A years-long effort to turn around the money-losing operations in Europe has made some progress, but not enough.
As a result, SCS stock has struggled, and itself isn’t terribly far from a multi-year low. But there are a few reasons to take a flyer on SCS at these levels. Support has held repeatedly around current levels — perhaps not coincidentally the level which gives SCS ~4% yield. The European business is improving, if slower than shareholders would like. Guidance for fiscal Q2 given last month looked strong, and peers like Knoll (NYSE:KNL) and Herman Miller (NASDAQ:MLHR) have posted solid results of late.
Indeed, it’s possible that the office furniture industry as a whole has some upside on the way (one reason I’m long KNL), as corporate tax reform gooses demand over the rest of the year and into 2019. If that’s the case, SCS’ recent weakness gives it the most room for upside. Execution remains a risk and both KNL and MLHR look like safer plays. But SCS has the highest yield and the biggest potential returns if it can finally get its house in order.
7 High-Risk Dividend Stocks: Ethan Allen Interiors (ETH)
Dividend Yield: 3.4%
Ethan Allen Interiors (NYSE:ETH) is the residential version of SCS. Revenue growth has been minimal the past few years (about 1% annually over the last five). Margins have seen pressure from higher input costs and marketing spend. As a result, ETH is threatening a six-year low itself.
But here, too, there’s a turnaround argument… if execution improves. I’m personally not betting on it — I see real concerns in both the product offering and corporate strategy — but investors who like a “get paid to wait” argument may see it differently. A 3.4% yield does offer income, and any good news could add some nice appreciation to the mix as well. There’s a real risk of ETH being “dead money” or declining further if margins weaken, but this is a high-risk/high-reward play with a solid yield on top.
7 High-Risk Dividend Stocks: Macerich (MAC)
Dividend Yield: 5.0%
What could have been for mall REIT Macerich (NYSE:MAC). A little over three years ago, Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG) offered $95.50 per share to take over the company. Macerich refused the offer — and MAC now trades below $60. Even including nearly $10 per share in dividends paid over that time, MAC shareholders remain deep in the red.
But there’s hope for some improvement from current levels. Management at Macerich and Simon both insist that its Class A malls are protected from retail weakness and a series of bankruptcies in the space. An activist effort and the retirement of the company’s longstanding CEO open the door for more aggressive action this time around. And MAC, at 15x the midpoint of 2018 FFO guidance, and with a 5% yield, looks cheaper than it has in some time.
Obviously, investors need to at least trust the high-end retail space and believe that brick-and-mortar can survive in the Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) era. Those investors that do should take a long look at MAC.
7 High-Risk Dividend Stocks: Stage Stores (SSI)
Dividend Yield: 9.7%
No stock on this list is riskier than Stage Stores (NYSE:SSI). The rural retailer has seen its business model upended by the rise of e-commerce. Stage’s nameplates like Stage, Peebles, and Bealls were set up primarily to be “the only game in town” in rural areas. That’s quite obviously no longer the case.
SSI already cut its dividend last year, and its shares have fallen over 90% in less than four years. Debt continues to rise, and a restructuring (with a wipeout of SSI shareholders) is a real possibility here.
All that said, there’s an intriguing bull case here, particularly with SSI pulling back sharply of late. The company’s acquisition of off-price retailer Gordmans Stores out of bankruptcy is showing some early signs of success. Same-store sales have improved, as the company’s stores in oil and gas-heavy markets start to recover from the shale bust.
Again, this is a high-risk play, and not one to buy for the dividend alone. But there is a chance that Stage Stores could pull through and shareholders will be rewarded handsomely if that turns out to be the case.
7 High-Risk Dividend Stocks: ABB (ABB)
Dividend Yield: 3.6%
The bull case for ABB Ltd (NYSE:ABB) is that investors are acquiring a quality multinational industrial at an attractive price — and an attractive yield. There have been short-term hiccups in key businesses, including the Power Grids unit. ABB has lagged industrial peers like Honeywell International (NYSE:HON) and Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR). But there’s room for a turnaround, led by high-tech business units (including robotics) and a rebound in oil and gas demand.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because ABB at the moment sounds an awful lot like the Swiss version of GE just a couple of years ago. (In fact, ABB closed its acquisition of GE’s Industrial Solutions business just this month.) And that, of course, is the bear case. If an industrial can’t win in this economic environment, how much needs to get fixed? And what exactly happens when the market turns?
ABB has put together two solid quarters, including a Q2 beat last month. There is some promise here. And if the company can stay on track, a 14% decline so far in 2018 easily could be reversed.
7 High-Risk Dividend Stocks: IBM (IBM)
Dividend Yield: 4.3%
The bull case for IBM (NYSE:IBM) is that business is getting better. IBM has grown revenue in each of its last three quarters. Long-running weakness in mainframes is starting to abate. IBM is starting to adapt to the new environment in IT, with cloud revenue over the last four quarters rising 23%. Efforts in artificial intelligence and blockchain promise more growth ahead.
The bear case for IBM is that the performance simply isn’t good enough. The three straight quarters of top-line growth followed almost six years of declines. IBM is late to cloud. Mainframes are dying. In short, as Dana Blankenhorn wrote, the tech world already has passed IBM by.
It’s an intriguing debate, one that too has echoes of GE, as Blankenhorn pointed out. But there still is hope for upside and a strong yield in the meantime. IBM trades at barely 10x next year’s EPS, and if it starts showing consistent growth that multiple will expand nicely. For now, however, that remains a big ‘if’.
As of this writing, Vince Martin is long shares of Knoll, and owns a bullish position in IBM options. He has no positions in any other securities mentioned.