Keeping up the returns would be a neat trick in today’s market, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into prolonged economic shutdowns and social lockdowns, while promoting volatility in both markets and politics. For investors, then, the best strategy may just be to follow a winner.
Billionaire investing legend George Soros is most definitely a winner. He’s built a portfolio worth billions, and had possibly the greatest bull run in hedge fund history, averaging 30% annualized returns for 30 years. Starting in 1992, when he shorted the Pound Sterling and made $1 billion in 24 hours, to his most recent 13F filings, Soros has a record of success that few investors can match.
Soros built his career and his fortune avoiding controversial stocks, and always keeping high returns in mind. Soros has always like dividend stocks; they offer a steady return, and for Soros, reliable returns have always been the key point.
We this in mind, we’ve taken three of Soros’ recent holding additions and looked them up in the TipRanks database. We discovered that all three are Buy-rated and, more importantly, offer robust dividend yields.
AGNC Investment (AGNC)
First up is a real estate investment trust (REIT), based in Washington DC’s Maryland suburbs. AGNC holds a portfolio of mortgage-backed securities, guaranteed by the US government. Of the company’s total portfolio, 76%, or $70.7 billion worth, is made up of Federally backed securities, giving AGNC’s assets a rock-solid foundation.
Soros already had a position in AGNC, of more than 1,388,000 shares, and in the first quarter he added an additional 312,000 shares. It was a 22% boost in the quantity of his AGNC holding, only one year after first buying into the stock. Soros’ holding in AGNC is currently worth over $21 million.
It’s clearly a solid investment. AGNC beat the EPS forecast in fiscal Q1, reporting 57 cents per share despite a sequential decline in quarterly income from interest. The company’s $1.29 billion in cash holdings allow it to support a generous dividend payment. More important, management was wise enough to adjust the most recent dividend to keep it aligned with earnings. Even reduced, the 12-cent monthly payment annualizes to $1.44 and gives a yield of 11.5%. That’s a high yield by any standard, but compared to peer stocks (which average 2.2%) or the S&P 500 generally (where dividends average 2.0%), it looks even better.
Covering this stock for JPMorgan, 5-star analyst Richard Shane sees Federal backing as the underlying strength. He writes, “We believe AGNC remains a compelling investment given continued Fed support of agency and short-term repo markets, and believe the portfolio can continue to perform as the economic situation normalizes with specified collateral mitigating prepayment concerns.”
Shane’s $16.50 price target on AGNC suggests an upside of 32%, fully supporting his Buy rating. (To watch Shane’s track record, click here)
All in all, Wall Street is mostly in agreement with Soros and Shane when it comes to buying AGNC. The stock has 11 recent reviews, of which 8 are Buy and 3 are Hold. The stock’s analyst consensus view is a Moderate Buy. Selling for just $12.44, AGNC is affordable, especially given its high dividend yield. At $14.53, the average price target implies room for a 17% upside potential. (See AGNC stock analysis on TipRanks)
Cenovus Energy (CVE)
Alberta, Canada has, for well over a decade, been at the center of that country’s energy boom. The province’s tar sands have proven to be an incredibly rich source of hydrocarbon energy, and made Canada a world player in the oil markets. Cenovus owns extensive oil and natural gas operations across Alberta and British Columbia, along with refineries in Illinois and Texas. Importantly, Cenovus managed to reduce its long-term debt by 21% in recent months, despite seeing a sharp drop in earnings in Q1.
Soros first bought into CVE in Q4 2019, buying 300,000 shares. In this most recent quarter, record show that he added another 1.7 million shares – making his total holding 2 million shares, worth over $7 million.
CVE pays out a reliable dividend, and even though earnings turned negative in Q1, the company held firm to the payment. At just 4.5 cents per share quarterly, annualizing to 18 cents, it may not sound like much, but it still yields a strong 5.09%. Cenovus has a five-year history or reliable dividend payments, another positive sign for return-minded investors.
Randy Ollenberger, from BMO Capital, believes Cenovus occupies a firm position in the industry. Ollenberger writes of the company’s mid-term prospects: “Although we believe 2020 to be a tough year for Cenovus and its peer group, we see its ample liquidity position as being crucial in navigating this current downturn. As of Q1, the company is sitting with ~$4.8 billion of liquidity… Cenovus’ minimal sustaining capex requirements and low operating costs make it well positioned for a commodity price recovery. As a result, we believe that Cenovus will have industry leading free cash flow yields moving into 2021…”
In line with this bullish outlook, Ollenberger sets a price target of $6.50 Canadian, or $4.61 in US dollars. This implies an upside to the stock of 24%, a nice complement to the dividend yield, and supportive of his Buy rating. (To watch Ollenberger’s track record, click here)
The analyst corps is somewhat divided on this stock; out of 12 recent reviews, 6 are Buys, 5 are Holds, and 1 is a Sell. The consensus rating is a Moderate Buy. The average price target, at $4.57, is in line with Ollenberger’s, and suggests that CVE has room for 23% upside growth in the coming year. (See Cenovus stock analysis on TipRanks)
NiSource, Inc. (NI)
Last on our list is a new position for Soros. NiSource is a holding company; its subsidiaries provide natural gas and electricity to 4 million customers across seven states: Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia. NI reported declines on both the top and bottom lines in Q1.
Despite the earnings declines, NI has kept up its dividend payment. The payment was raised in Q4 last year to 21 cents, and remains at that level. The payout ratio of 63%, while slightly high, indicates that the dividend is safe at current levels – and the 3.6% yield is a strong return, higher than the utility sector average of 3.04%.
High returns are always an attraction for Soros, and he initiated his position in NI with 300,000 shares. At current share prices, these shares are worth more than $6.7 million. It’s a solid base for future gains, in an industry that benefits from a guaranteed customer base; power utilities are another essential niche in the modern economy.
Covering NI stock for Wolfe Research, Steve Fleishman writes, “We see above-average rate base and earnings growth potential for NiSource relative to other electric and natural gas distribution utilities… We see NI as a de-risking story in 2020 with an upward bias on rate base / EPS growth due to renewable investment opportunities…”
Fleishman reiterates his Buy rating on NI shares. He backs it with a $26 price target that implies an upside potential of 16%. (To watch Fleishman’s track record, click here)
The analyst consensus rating on NI is an evenly split Moderate Buy, with 5 reviewers giving it a Buy and 5 giving it a Hold. Shares hold an average price target of $28.22, which indicates a 26% premium from the current share price of $22.37. (See NiSource stock analysis on TipRanks)
To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.