Four Big High-Yield Dividends at Risk of Being Slashed

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24/7 Wall St. is a huge fan of dividends. Rising dividends and safe high-yield dividends are even better. What is not good is when things are bad enough that a company will have to cut its dividend. We have received word from the short-only Ranger Equity Bear ETF (NYSEMKT: HDGE) that its is calling out four dividends as being at risk of a cut.

Brad Lamensdorf and John Del Vecchio are co-managers of the actively managed short-only exchange traded fund, which acts almost as a short-only hedge fund with daily liquidity, as you may have guessed by the stock ticker. The four companies in their portfolio at the biggest risk of dividend cuts are Diebold Inc. (NYSE: DBD), CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), Windstream Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: WIN) and Consolidated Communications Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSL).

Note that three of these are in the ultra-high yield category. A quick-hit summary has been given for each of these at-risk dividends, and we would point out that these summaries are taken from notes delivered by the fund managers themselves.

Diebold Inc. (NYSE: DBD) reduced expectations to $1.30 to $1.40 per share versus consensus of $1.80 for the full year. Almost all of the company’s cash is domiciled in foreign jurisdictions. Free cash flow will likely be at least a $25 million short fall with $75 million in dividend payments. While they may raise debt to fund the dividend, there are much “safer” dividend plays out there.

CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) saw legacy revenues fall over 7% and total revenues dropped approximately 2%. Pension costs and funding is likely to increase due to MAP-21. It already cut dividend once this year. This business is under intense pressure and the income statement is being squeezed.

Windstream Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: WIN) has free cash flow which barely covers the high-yield dividend. In 2009-10 there was a $400 million surplus, then $200 million, with no surplus in 2011, and just $30 million in 2012. In the first half of 2013 there was a $40 million shortfall. Prior cash flow was overstated on a sustainable basis due to reduction in funding for post retirement obligations. The company also has a $400 million underfunded pension.

Consolidated Communications Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSL) is another at-risk dividend according to the ETF managers. They showed that in 2012 the company achieved a low shortfall of $16 million in free cash flow versus dividend payments after accounting for debt payments. The SureWest acquisition drove the cash balance below $20 million. Second quarter revenue declined over 1% and missed expectations while free cash flow fell 75%. Consolidated’s cash balance is said to be at the lowest in the company’s history.

24/7 Wall St. recently featured the safest of the high-yield S&P 500 dividends to hold. Obviously none of these four companies were on that list. To show just how high these are:

  • CenturyLink yields 6.5%.
  • Diebold yields 3.8%.
  • Consolidated Communications yields 8.7%.
  • Windstream yields a whopping 11.8%.

Those are some high yields indeed, and now just one more group is pointing out that they come with some high risks as well.

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