Income-seeking investors might be tempted by the juicy yields Mattel(NASDAQ: MAT), Guess?(NYSE: GES), and GNC Holdings(NYSE: GNC) offer at recent prices. Any time you look for yields above the broad market average of around 2% you should be prepared to take on additional risk.
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If you can reasonably expect a company to maintain and grow its high yield payout, the added risk might be worthwhile. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be surprised if these three companies are forced to make an unpopular decision in the quarters ahead. Let's look at how their finances and underlying business trends are driving these payouts into the danger zone.
1. Mattel: Playtime's over
Following a recent market drubbing, shares of this leading toymaker offer a tempting 5.7% yield. Unfortunately, there are several signs of trouble ahead.
Losing the Disney Princess and Frozen licenses to industry peer Hasbro in 2016 was a big hurdle to overcome during a difficult time. While its Barbie and American Girl segments have performed well, Mattel's bottom line has been sputtering. Trailing earnings per share are about 63% lower than they were three years ago. Mattel's quarterly dividend has been frozen at $0.38 per share since early 2014, but the company still isn't generating enough profit to cover the payments.
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The company's new CEO might have to announce an unpopular decision soon because the gap between payments and profits is getting wider. In 2015, the $1.08 in earnings per share reported missed was $0.44 below annualized dividend payments that year. The $0.93 in earnings per share recorded last year undershot the dividend by $0.59 per share.
2. Guess?: Incorrect earnings trajectory
In 2016 retail stocks generally underperformed the broad market and this purveyor of trendy apparel felt the brunt of the market's frustration with sinking sales in the U.S. market. Guess? stock has fallen about 30% over the past year, which has driven the dividend yield up to a tantalizing 7.3% at recent prices.
Like Mattel, Guess? hasn't treated its shareholders to a bigger payment in a few years. At an annualized $0.90 per share, the distribution is well above management's expected range for fiscal 2017 full year earnings of between $0.59 and $0.69 per share.
The company has made an effort to expand throughout Asia, but revenue from this segment fell about 4.2% during the nine months ended October compared to the previous year period. That's slightly worse than revenue losses in the much larger Americas retail segment, which fell about 4% over the same time frame.
Unfortunately, bottom-line losses from these two geographic segments were more serious than top-line figures suggest. Both segments reported operating losses during the nine months ended last October, and total earnings from operations fell to just $1.7 million from $51.4 million in the previous year period.
If it weren't for a $22.3 million gain recorded from the sale of a boutique apparel company in 2016, earnings for the nine-month period would have been negative. It's hard to say just how long Guess? can continue making payments with barely profitable operations, but I wouldn't be surprised if it slashes the dividend soon.
3. GNC Holdings: Unhealthy results
Here's another retail stock that's been on the receiving end of some market beatdowns. Over the past year, GNC Holdings stock fell 67.5%, which has driven its dividend yield up to an alluring 9.1% at recent prices.
Unlike Guess? and Mattel, GNC Holdings is generating enough profit to cover its dividend. Trailing payments over the past 12 months consumed just 29% of earnings, which gives the company a bit of breathing room while it attempts to plug some holes.
Image source: GNC Holdings Inc.
GNC Holdings probably has the best chance of continuing annual dividend payout increases among these three high-yield dividend stocks, but it will be difficult to hang on to hope its losses will soon stabilize in light of recent results. Same-store sales plunged a frightening 8.5% in the third quarter over the previous-year period. Over the past five years, trailing net income has grown just 2.1%, although extensive share buybacks helped earnings per share continue rising 53.2% over the same period.
The stock has fallen to a bargain-basement price of just 3.3 times trailing earnings, which means it would provide market-beating gains if it can simply tread water over the long run. Until we see clear signs the nutritional-supplement retailer can contend with competition from superstores, warehouse retailers, and e-commerce sites, though, it's probably best to keep this stock on a watchlist rather than in your retirement portfolio until its future looks a bit healthier.
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