Merrill Lynch Has 4 Top Tech Dividend Stocks to Buy for Q4

September 26, 2016 by 247lee

Intel processor
Source: courtesy of Intel Corp.
With less than a week left in the third quarter, earnings reports soon will be flying fast and furious, and many investors are trying to get their portfolios set for what traditionally is a solid performance time for the markets. While October can still be jammed with volatility, November through January is often a good period to be long stocks, and this year technology looks like a good sector to overweight for the stretch run.

The heavily tech-weighted Nasdaq has had a nice bounce off the late June Brexit lows and looks to be breaking out to new highs. We screened the Merrill Lynch research universe for tech stocks that are rated Buy at the firm and pay a solid dividend, and ones that could be ready to report solid third-quarter results too. We found four that look outstanding for long-term growth portfolios.

Applied Materials

This semiconductor capital equipment leader has moved up nicely this year after underperforming. Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) is the global leader in precision materials engineering solutions for the semiconductor, flat panel display and solar photovoltaic industries. Applied Material’s technologies help make innovations like smartphones, flat screen TVs and solar panels more affordable and accessible to consumers and businesses around the world.

The analysts are very positive on the stock and see Applied Materials benefiting not only the semiconductor side of the business, but also from larger, higher resolution and flexible screens on the display side of the business. Despite reporting solid first-quarter earnings that were above consensus, and guidance that was in line with expectations, the stock is still very reasonably priced. It may very well be one of the best technology values available for investors today. Some Wall Street analysts see continued FinFET capacity expansion (10nm/14nm/16nm) and transition to 3D NAND, with DRAM spending remaining strong next year.

Earlier this year the company announced a new $2 billion share buyback program, which comes on the heels of a recently completed $3 billion program. Merrill Lynch sees the purchase plan as being approximately 8% accretive to earnings.

Shareholders receive a 1.35% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $35. The Wall Street consensus target is at $33.50. Shares ended Friday at $29.66.

Intel

This leader in semiconductors is working hard to scale away from dependence on personal computers. Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) designs, manufactures and sells integrated digital technology platforms worldwide. The company’s platforms are used in various computing applications comprising notebooks, two-in-one systems, desktops, servers, tablets, smartphones, wireless and wired connectivity products, wearables, retail devices and manufacturing devices, as well as for retail, transportation, industrial, buildings, home use and other market segments.

The company also provides communication and connectivity offerings, such as baseband processors, radio frequency transceivers and power management integrated circuits, and tablet, phone and Internet of Things solutions, which include multimode 4G LTE modems, Bluetooth technology and GPS receivers, software solutions and interoperability tests, as well as home gateway and set-top box components.

Intel reported an inline second quarter, but data center sales came in way below expectations, a trend the analyst thinks reverses in the fourth quarter and 2017. In addition, a new partnership with Microsoft for virtual reality, and a consistent shift away for reliance on chips for personal computers, keeps the stock a compelling buy.

Intel investors receive a 2.8% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $45 price target, while the consensus target is $40.38. The shares closed Friday at $37.19.

Microsoft

This top old-school technology stock gives investors a degree of mega-cap tech safety and has a massive $105 billion sitting on the balance sheet. Microsoft Inc. (NASDAQ: MSFT) continues to find an increasing amount of support from portfolio managers, who have added the software giant to their holdings at an increasingly faster pace all of this year and last.

Numerous Wall Street analysts feel that Microsoft has become a clear number two in the public or hyper-scale cloud infrastructure market with Azure, which is the company’s cloud computing platform offering. Some have flagged Azure as a solid rival to Amazon’s AWS service. Analysts also maintain that Microsoft is discounting Azure for large enterprises, such that Azure may be cheaper than AWS for larger users.

The top analysts believe the company continues to make steady progress with its cloud transition and expect Office 365 and Azure to be solid contributors to top and bottom line for the next several years. While not likely to snag the top slot from Amazon, it could add huge incremental revenue for years to come, especially when you factor in the huge revenue potential from the banks, insurance companies and the financial services industry.

The company recently announced a gigantic all-cash, $196 per share offer for LinkedIn. While some on Wall Street gasped at the huge premium paid, Microsoft continues to expand its product lines and cut its dependence on software sales. While it remains to be seen how the fit will be, the analysts like the overall product synergies the deal brings.

Microsoft investors receive a 2.72% dividend, and the forward valuation remains compelling. The Merrill Lynch price target is $65. The consensus target is $59.87. The stock closed Friday at $57.43.

Texas Instruments

This old-school chip tech company is also a sizable auto chip player. Texas Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ: TXN) is a global semiconductor design and manufacturing company that develops analog integrated circuits and embedded processors. The company generates 80% to 90% of its revenues from its analog and embedded processing businesses, which have well-diversified end-markets (autos, industrial, personal/consumer electronics), long product life cycles and limited capital intensity. The company has 6% market share of the auto chip market.

Numerous Wall Street pros see the stock as core large cap holding, and they cite a solid high-single-digit and very diverse revenue flow, solid capital allocation to lever the balance sheet if needed, and substantial room for margin expansion as the ramp up new facilities. The company boasts sustained impressive cash flow over the past several years and has impressively returned 100% plus of that back to shareholders via stock buybacks and dividends.

Given modest capital expenditure requirements coupled with room for margin expansion, Texas Instruments should be able to sustain double-digit free cash flow growth despite slower sales growth.

Texas Instruments also posted strong second-quarter numbers that exceeded consensus estimates, and its third-quarter guidance is in line with what analysts expect.

Investors receive a 2.2% dividend. The $80 Merrill Lynch price target compares with the consensus price objective of $71.95. The shares closed Friday just below that at $68.98.

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Four top technology companies that all pay a very solid and increasing dividend. The longevity of these companies is a testament to current and former executives who steered all of them into new product arenas to compete in the future.