4 Hold-Rated Dividend Stocks

Editor's Note: TheStreet ratings do not represent the views of TheStreet's staff or its contributors. Ratings are established by computer based on metrics for performance (which includes growth, stock performance, efficiency and valuation) and risk (volatility and solvency). Companies with poor cash flow or high debt levels tend to earn lower ratings in our model.

TheStreet Ratings' stock model projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Our Buy, Hold or Sell ratings designate how we expect these stocks to perform against a general benchmark of the equities market and interest rates.

While plenty of high-yield opportunities exist, investors must always consider the safety of their dividend and the total return potential of their investment. It is not uncommon for a struggling company to suspend high-yielding dividends and subsequently result in precipitous share price declines.

TheStreet Ratings' stock rating model views dividends favorably, but not so much that other factors are disregarded. Our model gauges the relationship between risk and reward in several ways, including: the pricing drawdown as compared to potential profit volatility, i.e. how much one is willing to risk in order to earn profits?; the level of acceptable volatility for highly performing stocks; the current valuation as compared to projected earnings growth; and the financial strength of the underlying company as compared to its stock's valuation as compared to its stock's performance.

These and many more derived observations are then combined, ranked, weighted, and scenario-tested to create a more complete analysis. The result is a systematic and disciplined method of selecting stocks. As always, stock ratings should not be treated as gospel — rather, use them as a starting point for your own research.

The following pages contain our analysis of 4 stocks with substantial yields, that ultimately, we have rated "Hold."

Ambassadors Group

Dividend Yield: 7.20%

Ambassadors Group (NASDAQ: EPAX) shares currently have a dividend yield of 7.20%.

Ambassadors Group, Inc. provides educational travel experiences and online education research materials worldwide. Its Ambassador Programs and Other segment offers educational travel services to students and professionals. The company has a P/E ratio of 33.50.

The average volume for Ambassadors Group has been 46,100 shares per day over the past 30 days. Ambassadors Group has a market cap of $56.8 million and is part of the diversified services industry. Shares are down 22.8% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Ambassadors Group as a hold. Among the primary strengths of the company is its solid financial position based on a variety of debt and liquidity measures that we have evaluated. At the same time, however, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, deteriorating net income and disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • EPAX has no debt to speak of therefore resulting in a debt-to-equity ratio of zero, which we consider to be a relatively favorable sign. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.30, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • The revenue fell significantly faster than the industry average of 3.0%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 31.8%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • AMBASSADORS GROUP INC's earnings per share declined by 28.9% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has reported a trend of declining earnings per share over the past two years. However, the consensus estimate suggests that this trend should reverse in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, AMBASSADORS GROUP INC reported lower earnings of $0.09 versus $0.16 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.11 versus $0.09).
  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Hotels, Restaurants & Leisure industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 28.7% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from -$7.80 million to -$10.03 million.
  • Despite any intermediate fluctuations, we have only bad news to report on this stock's performance over the last year: it has tumbled by 36.86%, worse than the S&P 500's performance. Consistent with the plunge in the stock price, the company's earnings per share are down 28.88% compared to the year-earlier quarter. Despite the heavy decline in its share price, this stock is still more expensive (when compared to its current earnings) than most other companies in its industry.

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Niska Gas Storage Partners

Dividend Yield: 9.20%

Niska Gas Storage Partners (NYSE: NKA) shares currently have a dividend yield of 9.20%.

Niska Gas Storage Partners LLC owns and operates natural gas storage assets in North America.

The average volume for Niska Gas Storage Partners has been 139,300 shares per day over the past 30 days. Niska Gas Storage Partners has a market cap of $525.0 million and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are up 38.2% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Niska Gas Storage Partners as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, compelling growth in net income and impressive record of earnings per share growth. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including generally higher debt management risk and weak operating cash flow.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 104.88% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 25.92% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, our hold rating indicates that we do not recommend additional investment in this stock despite its gains in the past year.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 104.9% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from -$213.63 million to $10.42 million.
  • NISKA GAS STORAGE PARTNERS reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, NISKA GAS STORAGE PARTNERS swung to a loss, reporting -$2.38 versus $0.84 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings (-$0.55 versus -$2.38).
  • Net operating cash flow has decreased to $59.82 million or 47.95% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing the cash generation rate to the industry average, the firm's growth is significantly lower.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio of 1.28 is relatively high when compared with the industry average, suggesting a need for better debt level management. Along with this, the company manages to maintain a quick ratio of 0.32, which clearly demonstrates the inability to cover short-term cash needs.

New From TheStreet: Jim Cramer's Protégé, Dave Peltier, only buys dividend stocks that have the potential for a 3% to 4% yield and 10% growth. Get his best picks for less than $50/year.

Horizon Technology Finance Corp BDC

Dividend Yield: 9.40%

Horizon Technology Finance Corp BDC (NASDAQ: HRZN) shares currently have a dividend yield of 9.40%.

Horizon Technology Finance Corporation, a specialty finance company, lends to and invests in development-stage companies in the United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 10.42.

The average volume for Horizon Technology Finance Corp BDC has been 83,000 shares per day over the past 30 days. Horizon Technology Finance Corp BDC has a market cap of $140.7 million and is part of the financial services industry. Shares are down 5.4% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Horizon Technology Finance Corp BDC as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, deteriorating net income and disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 4.7%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 28.4%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • The gross profit margin for HORIZON TECHNOLOGY FINANCE is rather high; currently it is at 62.30%. Regardless of HRZN's high profit margin, it has managed to decrease from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, HRZN's net profit margin of -55.56% significantly underperformed when compared to the industry average.
  • HORIZON TECHNOLOGY FINANCE has exprienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. The company has reported a trend of declining earnings per share over the past two years. However, the consensus estimate suggests that this trend should reverse in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, HORIZON TECHNOLOGY FINANCE reported lower earnings of $0.56 versus $1.44 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.40 versus $0.56).
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$10.75 million or 137.83% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing the cash generation rate to the industry average, the firm's growth is significantly lower.
  • The share price of HORIZON TECHNOLOGY FINANCE has not done very well: it is down 13.82% and has underperformed the S&P 500, in part reflecting the company's sharply declining earnings per share when compared to the year-earlier quarter. Looking ahead, other than the push or pull of the broad market, we do not see anything in the company's numbers that may help reverse the decline experienced over the past 12 months. Despite the past decline, the stock is still selling for more than most others in its industry.

New From TheStreet: Jim Cramer's Protégé, Dave Peltier, only buys dividend stocks that have the potential for a 3% to 4% yield and 10% growth. Get his best picks for less than $50/year.

Vector Group

Dividend Yield: 9.80%

Vector Group (NYSE: VGR) shares currently have a dividend yield of 9.80%.

Vector Group Ltd., through its subsidiaries, engages in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes in the United States. The company operates in Tobacco and Real Estate segments. The company has a P/E ratio of 46.60.

The average volume for Vector Group has been 415,900 shares per day over the past 30 days. Vector Group has a market cap of $1.5 billion and is part of the tobacco industry. Shares are up 5.1% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Vector Group as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in net income, good cash flow from operations and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that the stock has had a generally disappointing performance in the past year.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Tobacco industry. The net income increased by 111.4% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $7.80 million to $16.49 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 52.95% to -$13.16 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, VECTOR GROUP LTD has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -24.04%.
  • 48.70% is the gross profit margin for VECTOR GROUP LTD which we consider to be strong. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Despite the strong results of the gross profit margin, VGR's net profit margin of 11.07% significantly trails the industry average.
  • VECTOR GROUP LTD has improved earnings per share by 47.0% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has not demonstrated a clear trend in earnings over the past 2 years, making it difficult to accurately predict earnings for the coming year. During the past fiscal year, VECTOR GROUP LTD reported lower earnings of $0.30 versus $0.82 in the prior year.
  • In its most recent trading session, VGR has closed at a price level that was not very different from its closing price of one year earlier. This is probably due to its weak earnings growth as well as other mixed factors. Looking ahead, we do not see anything in this company's numbers that would change the one-year trend. It was down over the last twelve months; and it could be down again in the next twelve. Naturally, a bull or bear market could sway the movement of this stock.

New From TheStreet: Jim Cramer's Protégé, Dave Peltier, only buys dividend stocks that have the potential for a 3% to 4% yield and 10% growth. Get his best picks for less than $50/year.

Other helpful dividend tools from TheStreet:

Editor's Note: TheStreet ratings do not represent the views of TheStreet's staff or its contributors. Ratings are established by computer based on metrics for performance (which includes growth, stock performance, efficiency and valuation) and risk (volatility and solvency). Companies with poor cash flow or high debt levels tend to earn lower ratings in our model.

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